Babergh Tory split stays wide as chairman holds back from joining party

Peter Burgoyne. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Peter Burgoyne. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Conservatives in South Suffolk have yet again been thrown into disarray with a huge split opening up less than a year before crucial local council elections.

The chairman of Babergh Council, Peter Burgoyne, has refused to pay his subscription to the South Suffolk Conservative Association because some of its officers are rebel councillors who, he says, are undermining the ruling Tory group at the authority.

This has prompted association vice-chairman and treasurer Simon Barrett, who now sits as an independent Conservative on the authority, to point out that Mr Burgoyne – the party’s former agent – could not stand as a Tory in next year’s election.

The row has been simmering for months, and started at the end of last year when former Babergh leader Jennie Jenkins tried to push the authority towards merger with Mid Suffolk council without a referendum – a public vote in Babergh in 2011 rejected a proposed merger.

Six Conservative councillors have broken away from the official group at Babergh – but Mr Barrett insisted this did not affect their position within the party.

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However group loyalists, including Mr Burgoyne, have become increasingly frustrated at what they see as the independent Conservatives’ efforts to undermine the council leadership.

He said: “I’ve already made it clear I’m not going to stand again next year. I’ve had enough of politics – I’ve seen too much petty backbiting.”

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He had also decided not to re-subscribe to the party because he was opposed to the government decision to bomb Syria without a vote in the House of Commons.

But it was the Conservative split at Babergh that had initially persuaded him not to re-subscribe to the party: “I was due to pay up in January, but I could not sign up to an organisation where the leading members were trying to stop the council from working.”

Meanwhile it has emerged that splits within Babergh Conservatives were a key factor in Mid Suffolk councillors shelving merger discussions.

A senior Mid Suffolk Conservative said: “We just can’t work with them (Babergh councillors). Too many of them are only interested in their own little village or ward and just cannot understand how councils work. It just was not worth the effort of trying to get their backbenchers onside.”

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