Andrews-Smith joins Lib Dems

By Graham DinesPolitical EditorA TORY county councillor, who last week quit the party to sit as an Independent, has joined the Liberal Democrats after accusing the Conservatives of inspiring the "cynical gerrymandering" of the county's electoral map.

By Graham Dines

Political Editor

A TORY county councillor, who last week quit the party to sit as an Independent, has joined the Liberal Democrats after accusing the Conservatives of inspiring the "cynical gerrymandering" of the county's electoral map.

Jane Andrews-Smith, who represents Forest Heath's Icknield county division, said the Boundary Commission's reduction of the number of county councillors from 80 to 75 had been proposed by the Conservatives.


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"The villages and rural districts in Suffolk already feel isolated from Ipswich. There will now be fewer county councillors to look after their needs - they have been totally betrayed by the Conservative Party," she said.

After the number of Forest Heath county councillors was cut from six to five by the Boundary Commission, Mrs Andrews-Smith - who recently moved from Kentford to Bury St Edmunds - failed to win reselection as a Tory candidate.

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Last week, she resigned from the Conservative Party to sit as an Independent on the county council and yesterday announced she had joined the Liberal Democrat group. She will be standing on May 5 for the Liberal Democrats in the newly created Red Lodge and Newmarket division, which includes part of her current Icknield seat.

"I support many of the Lib Dems' policies, particularly on waste management and care for the elderly. The Tories are totally out of touch with the people of Suffolk," she added.

"I met Charles Kennedy last year on a visit to Westminster and was impressed by his direct answers to direct questions."

Peter Monk, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, added: "We know Jane is a hard working local councillor, who is very well thought of by her electorate. We have been pleased to support her on local issues like extra lorry parking in her area."

Conservative group leader Jeremy Pembroke commented: "It is remarkable how within the space of a few days, Mrs Andrews-Smith could represent three different groups - Tory, Independent, and now Liberal Democrat."

He confirmed the Conservatives had no regrets at inspiring the Boundary Commission's reduction of county councillors from 80 to 75. "Mrs Andrews-Smith's new friends in the Liberal Democrats supported Labour's bid to increase the figure to 90 - "that would have cost council tax payers an extra £600,000 in the council's four-year life cycle."

n Seven Labour county councillors will not be seeking re-election in May. They are John Le Grys (Ipswich, Rushmere), Robin Sargent (Ipswich, Sprites), Tony Andrews (Waveney, Lothingland South), Brian Hunter (Waveney, Lothingland North), Marie Rogers (Waveney, Lowestoft St Margaret's), Maggie Lee (St Edmundsbury, Haverhill South), and Gerry Kiernan (St Edmundsbury, Haverhill North).

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