FOUR rebel Tories who quit the party in protest have turned the borough’s balance of power on its head by spearheading a new political movement.
A long-standing borough council Conservative majority has been smashed by the emergence of the East Staffordshire Independent Group.
Robert Hardwick, Malcolm Barrett, Nathan Birnie and Peter Ball launched the group yesterday after quitting the Tories in May.
The council is now made up of 18 Conservatives, 16 Labour representatives, one Lib Dem and the new group.
This will effectively give the Independents the casting vote on any proposals the ruling Tories try to push through.
Councillor Birnie, who was told he could never return to the Conservatives, will lead the ‘gang of four’ - despite having joined UKIP just two months ago.
He said: “I am looking forward to meeting with the leaders of the two main groups on East Staffordshire Borough Council and try to find a way forward for the benefit of the residents of Uttoxeter.”
After the four resigned the Tory whip when their undisclosed concerns were ‘ignored’ by the party, councillor Ball was also permanently expelled.
He said: “It has become quite clear over the last few months that the Conservative Party has not had the wit to resolve the issues we raised when we first resigned the group whip.
“In my opinion, East Staffordshire Conservatives Association did not get themselves fully appraised of the situation before they acted as judge and jury on Nathan and myself, which led to us being expelled from the party and left the four of us no way back to the Conservative goup.”
Since leaving the Tories, crown ward representative Councillor Hardwick has lost his role as head of the joint parking committee to Julia Jessell.