Thanet council upheaval as UKIP 12 quit to form new Independent group

Cllr Stuart Piper

Twelve UKIP councillors who defied their party to vote down the next stage of the Thanet Draft Local Plan have quit the group at Thanet council to form a new one.

The 12 have announced the formation of the Thanet Independent UKIP Group, with former housing Cabinet member Cllr Stuart Piper leading the party and Cllr Edward Jaye-Jones stepping up as deputy leader. The group became ‘official’ at 11am today.

Cllr Piper said: “Thanet independent UKIP Group has been registered and we are currently 12 members. We intend to support Cllr Wells with his budget proposals on Thursday evening at the council meeting but will not be supporting his administration after that.

“We look forward to meaningful discussions with other group leaders to find a way forward to work for the people of Thanet. For too long their voices have not been heard and they feel they have been shortchanged regarding the Local Plan preparations. We want to engage with the electorate, and with business leaders and get to grips with a redrafted Local Plan that can be supported by them and by major consultees.”

The move leaves the ruling UKIP administration with just 13 members, meaning it becomes the second largest group at council by a margin of one.

The Twelve

The 12 are Bertie Braidwood; John Buckley; John Dennis; Robin Edwards; Edward Jaye-Jones; Lynda Piper; Stuart Piper; Linda Potts; Roy Potts; George Rusiecki; Trevor Shonk and Gary Taylor.

The split

Council leader Chris Wells (left) and Cllr Stuart Piper 

The move follows a statement issued by Cllr Piper this month from  the ‘rebel’ group calling for council leader Chris Wells to resign with immediate effect. This came in the wake of the vote on Thanet’s draft local plan on January 18 which split the party.

Cllr Wells has slammed the defection

He said: “The consequences of the decision by councillors to vote down the proposed local plan are becoming clearer by the day.

“Just yesterday Housing minister Sajid Javid said “Thanet council will not get special treatment over its failure to publish its Local Plan,” and that he may intervene to take control.

“He rejected claims the government had agreed to an extended deadline to enable the Manston site to be designated for aviation use.

“(He said) ‘But our message to all councils is that it is the right thing to do to plan for the number of homes that your community needs and if you are not doing that, you are letting down local people.’

“The Leader of any council has a responsibility above party politics.  Part of that is to ensure any proposals for the area are legally safe, and within Government guidelines.  Whilst we continue to seek ways to get a local plan through, as a council already in intervention our options are limited.

“Some seem to think that I am the block to their ambitions. They are wrong.  The facts are the stumbling block.  And too many Thanet councillors still want to hide from the facts.”

Councillors voted the plan down

Cllr Wells suffered defeat when 12 UKIP members aligned with the Conservative Party and three Independents to vote down taking the Local Plan to the publication stage.

A change of status in the plan for Manston axing aviation-only status in favour of a mixed-use designation to include 2,500 homes proved the downfall of the plan, which is a blueprint for housing, business and infrastructure until 2031. The result was a vote of 35 councillors rejecting the proposal to put it forward for publication. Of those 20 were Conservative, 3 Independents and 12 were UKIP councillors. Just 20 voted in favour and one Conservative councillor was absent.

An amendment to defer for two years the mixed-use designation pending the resolution of the DCO process was not enough to persuade the majority of councillors.

Fall out

Cllr Chris Wells 

Following the vote Cllr Wells slammed the “stupidity” of the outcome, adding that he saw no reason to allow councillors who “refused to take proper legal, advice free rein to wreak havoc on the council.”

The failure to vote through the Local Plan leaves Thanet council at risk of intervention from national government.

The move means the Conservatives become the largest group in the administration with 21 members, followed by 13 UKIP, 12 Thanet Independent UKIP Group,  6 Labour, 2 Independent Group and 2 Independents including former UKIP member Suzanne Brimm and colleague Alan Howes. Cllr Brimm says she will not be joining the new group as she believes party politics are destructive for local issues and so she will remain Independent. Cllr Brimm is no longer a national UKIP member.

Conservative leader Bob Bayford confirmed this month that there had been discussions regarding a vote of no confidence. It is now likely an emergency meeting will be called to put that vote forward. This could see the council come under Conservative control.

UKIP council

UKIP took control of their only council in the country in 2015, winning 33 of the 56 seats. But the party has since suffered defections and resignations.

In 2015 Beverley Martin, Ash Ashbee and now-disgraced former councillors Konnor Collins and Helen Smith, who were later arrested on theft charges, set up the Democratic Independent Group in protest at a lack of action on Manston airport. They were then joined by Cllr Jeff Elenor, who later resigned his seat because he moved out of the area.

Cllr Martin later returned to the UKIP fold.  Cllr Ashbee joined the Conservatives. Cllr Emma Dawson and Lesley Game crossed to the Conservatives in 2015 and Cllr Peter Evans followed them in 2017.

UKIP regained the majority when the party took back the Northwood seats in a by-election following the resignation of Mr Collins and Ms Smith in 2016.

Cllr Bev Martin 

The Party then lost its majority again last July when Cllr Beverly Martin defected, this time to the Tories. Its sway was further reduced when the Margate by-election in August returned Labour’s Ian Venables to the seat.

Councillors Suzanne Brimm and Alan Howes 

That same month Birchington ward councillors Suzanne Brimm and Alan Howes announced they were quitting the party to serve as Independents.

Now the Thanet  Independent UKIP Group has been formed. Members of this group remain in the fold of national UKIP, whose leader Henry Bolton also called for Cllr Wells to resign, but are not a part of the TDC ruling group.

16 Comments

  1. Why call this an “upheaval” in the Council. Very little will change. Much of UKIP has always been “the Tory Party in exile”. When Cameron led the Tories , they couldn’t be “the nasty Party” any more (at least, not on the surface). Now Cameron is gone and there was a narrow majority for Brexit, so the UKIP members and voters are drifting slowly back to their natural home in the Conservative Party. Their votes in the Council won’t change.They will still cling to the farce of creating an airport at Manston, still hand the Council’s functions to private profiteers and still object to providing desperately needed Social Housing for Thanet residents. So what “upheaval” has really occurred?

    • Keefog-there have been more then enough planning permissions passed to cater for the local need -more then 9,000 – which is more then the anticipated birth rate for Thanet. The problem is that Thanet are being required to build houses for many thousands coming from elsewhere, London mostly- that’s why we keep reading about job supply, water supply, drainage that was out of date in Victorian times. Just a cursory look at the top grade land available will show that Thanet has 95% of it when once concreted over is lost for ever.

      • Like many others, I fear the concreting-over of the countryside, not least in Thanet which has lost so much green space over recent years.
        But we can’t just assume that housing needs only involve the immediate , local population. The Isle of Thanet isn’t an island!! We are all part of the UK and the wider world. When the UK government(of whatever political type) draws up housing and development plans, it takes into account ALL requirements.If I am anything to go by, we are all getting older and plan to last a lot longer than previous generations. So we don’t die early, leaving our houses to the next generation. Instead, we are still happily using up the nation’s housing stock well after our offspring have also started renting or buying. Many people have suffered marriage break-ups, more than in the past, therebye needing two properties when they had only needed one when they were together.So, yes, Thanet, and everywhere else, has to face the need to provide housing for lots of people from all round the country AND from the rest of the world if we want to maintain our public services and agricultural and manufacturing industries. (I am retired so I will NOT be picking potatoes, planting sprouts, packing salads, driving delivery vans, serving in bars and restaurants, cleaning hotels,sweeping airports, caring for the elderly, replacing hip joints,stacking supermarket shelves, teaching maths or serving in the Army, just to mention a few of the jobs which immigrant workers are able to take because so many of the UK population are old and knackered!) Old industrial/airport sites fit the bill as areas suitable for housing that doesn’t involve pristine countryside being lost.As I say, Thanet isn’t really an island,self-sufficient and isolated, and nor is the UK!

  2. I was expecting UKIP to be more professional; however, they helped us get our country back, out of the NWO (EU) to some extent at least.

  3. All this malarkey brings great confidence to the residents of Thanet. Ukip can’t keep their group together so split but they still keep the ukip connection through allegiance with a Mr Bolton, who the majority of that party want to leave. It’s fragmentation after fragmentation. So they’ve imploded big time. The hard job now is for the largest group left standing to take the lead. Let’s hope the mud slinging matches stop now. What a fiasco it’s all been. To watch this all going on fills me with dread. To live in Thanet and know that these games are going on within the Council is a tragedy and I hope out of this chaos there is a sensible straight forward and honest approach to governing Thanet. We the residents need stability in this time more than ever. I won’t hold my breath.

  4. It was only a matter of time after that Local Plan vote. The writing was on the wall the moment Wells went back on his election pledge. He must have known that as his party recruited so many candidates from Pro-Manston groups that an anti-Manston move was political suicide?

    • By anti-Manston you mean anti-airport, of course.

      If you think (along with an unknown number of others) that the 2015 election in Thanet was all about an airport, then surely Chris Wells and his more supportive colleagues had very good practical reasons for backing a Local Plan which not prescribe aviation use for the ex-airport site.

      But there were several different things on offer, if not exactly promised, to the electorate by practically all parties in that election.

  5. Rats leaving a sinking ship, ukip has always been the tories reserve team, watch the provisional u kippers prop up the tories then join them in time for next years council elections. Vote ukip get a Tory

  6. Sajid Javid says that councils are failing their electorate if they don’t listen to their needs regarding housing. Thanet doesn’t need all the houses Cllr Wells is pretending we do! No wonder 12 of his UKIP councillors have rebelled, plus several others since he became leader of TDC.

  7. Independent planning experts have scrutinised Thanet’s local plan and have found it to be sound. The housing allocation has been calculated correctly using the government’s own formula. Sajid Javid has emphasised the council’s responsibility to provide the correct amount of housing. He isn’t going to give TDC a year to scrabble around trying to find extra sites for the housing. He’s going to intervene and approve the local plan which his own official are telling him is sound.

  8. Cheggers; My thoughts precisely. These 12 drop-outs are just Tories in disguise and playing silly-buggers with the electorate. The local plan is sound and Sajid Javid should just step in to pass it in any case. Cllr Wells has performed his duties as professionally as he must and if anyone else takes over they will have to do the same.

  9. Rather than building on Manston, what about compulsory purchasing the empty and derelict houses all over Thanet to help with the housing shortage like the one in Zion Place currently providing shelter for Thanet’s pigeon population when people are sleeping on benches in the freezing cold. Disgusting!

  10. I doubt these 12 now represent the views of the majority of voters if they ever did. We should now have NEW COUNCIL ELECTIONS. The aim being to get a more representative group for Thanet in TDC. Democracy is NOT SERVED in local councils when overwhelming majorities exist. CONSENSUS is the way forward at local level and perhaps at government level too.

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