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Romford Conservatives at war as party drops top Havering councillors

12:06 05 July 2013

The Romford Tory Association is divided

The Romford Tory Association is divided

Archant

The civil war pulling apart Romford’s Tory party has escalated, with senior councillors and cabinet members complaining to Conservative HQ that they’ve been unfairly dumped from the 2014 elections.

Romford’s Conservative Association has issued a statement responding to the allegations made by the displaced councillors:

“The selection processes conducted by the Romford Conservative Association were carried out entirely in accordance with procedures laid down by the Conservative Party and following advice received by Conservative campaign headquarters.

“The association kept the national party fully informed about each step of the process to ensure it was conducted properly and in accordance with the rules.

“If Cllr Curtin wishes to put in writing any concerns that he might have, he is welcome to do so and the association will respond to him accordingly.

“However, to date, since the end of the selection process, no communication has been received from Cllr Curtin.

“The Association would like to reiterate that the claims made in the press release are gross exaggerations and a deliberate attempt to hide the truth in search of a dramatic headline.

“Those who perpetuate these mistruths are doing themselves no service and are also harming the good name of the Conservative Party.

“Seven names on the list of 13 chose not to participate in the selection process and a further two were approved and still have the opportunity to be selected for the ward in which they both live.

“There are only three councillors who applied but were not successful in reaching the list of approved candidates, and just one further councillor who is now a reserve candidate.”

But the party chairman denies any wrongdoing and says due process has been followed.

Cllr Michael Armstrong (Pettits) on Monday alleged 13 serving councillors had been “removed” and added he had “serious questions” about the association’s activities.

Mayors past and present, five cabinet members and two former committee chairs are among the councillors who will not be running in Romford, which covers seven of Havering’s 18 wards.

All seven are currently Tory-controlled.

Two councillors have announced their intention to stand in other areas instead.

The Romford Tories have been choosing their candidates for 2014 since February, with the final meetings taking place last week.

Now Havering’s culture boss Cllr Andrew Curtin and Cllr Armstrong, who is Havering’s cabinet member for transformation, are among those making formal complaints to the party’s national headquarters.

Senior Conservatives have alleged to the Recorder:

- The committee broke national party rules by accepting proxy votes, which it denies, and allowed people to vote at the selection meetings who hadn’t heard presentations by all the nominees;

- One member of the local government committee lied to residents about the reasons for Cllr Lynden Thorpe and Cllr Eric Munday’s omission from the candidate lists;

- The association is putting Havering Council at risk by axing skilled, experienced councillors at a time when local government budgets are falling;

- The selection process was a fait accompli;

- Old grudges in the group’s ongoing battle between new blood and old guard are influencing the committee’s decisions.

In the release, Cllr Curtin wrote: “I have raised very serious concerns about Romford Conservative Association with the national Conservative Party and look forward hearing how the national party will investigate them.”

Cllr Sandra Binion added: “After a very difficult year for me in which I have continued to carry out my council duties despite my treatment [for cancer], I was devastated to be dealt with in this way.”

A number of the 13 – including Havering’s environment boss Cllr Barry Tebbutt, Cllr Fred Osborne (both Brooklands) and serving Mayor Cllr Eric Munday – had not stood for selection.

And Cllr Billy Taylor said he had chosen not to stand because of his personal circumstances.

But Cllr Osborne told the Recorder: “I don’t think [the selection process] has been handled in the correct manner.

“I didn’t go before the committee because I knew where I was going to end up.”

Cllr Munday, who has won nine consecutive elections and represented Squirrels Heath since 1978 but was not asked if he wanted to stand next year, added: “It’s a stitch-up. People who now are in positions within the Romford association are exacting revenge for what they consider to be past slurs.”

He said he was referring to an incident in which he changed the locks of the party’s head office in Western Road last year after the building’s facilities were put to “inappropriate use”.

He added Cllr Damian White had told constituents Cllr Munday would not be standing because he planned to move to France - but that this was wholly untrue.

“The selection process that has taken place was a sham,” he said.

Cllr White denied he had told anyone Cllr Munday was moving to France.

In a written response, Tory chairman Cllr Dervish rebutted the claims, saying a number of councillors had chosen not to stand or not to renew their membership, and denying process had been abused.

He added only five of the 13 councillors had actually been denied the chance to stand in the wards they’d applied for, and said Cllr Armstrong and Cllr Benham had instead been offered the chance to stand in Brooklands.

But Cllr Armstrong told the Recorder it was the first he’d heard of it.

“At no time have I applied to stand in Brooklands,” he wrote in an e-mail. “I do not accept the nomination for Brooklands and the matter is now with the national party.”

Click the link on the right to read the Recorder’s exclusive on Cllr Benham’s withdrawal from the 2014 race..

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