THE former leader and deputy leader of Thurrock UKIP, who lost their seats to Tories in May’s local elections, have now joined the Conservative Party.
The two, who both served on the council for four years, spearheaded the switch by the borough’s UKIP councillors to leave the party and form their own independent group on the council, a move announced in February this year.
Graham Snell continued as the majority opposition group leader on the council until he lost his Stifford Clays seat to Tory Elizabeth Rigby in May, while his deputy Roy Jones lost his Stanford East and Corringham Town seat to Conservative Alex Anderson.
In a joint statement issued today (Tuesday, 11 September) Mr Snell and Mr Jones said: “We are pleased to be a part of the Thurrock Conservative team. We decided to join them for two main reasons. Firstly, we got into politics to fight for Brexit. Only the Conservatives can deliver Brexit.
“With Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour hell bent on keeping us in the EU, we need to back the Conservatives to get us out. Secondly, they launched “clean it, cut it, fill it” to clean up the borough, they are investing record amounts in education and health, and have achieved a long term balanced budget to secure services. Simply, we feel Thurrock is better off under the Conservatives.”
In 2016, when Cllr Snell came close to being leader of the council but was denied by a combination of votes and abstentions at the annual meeting, he criticised both Labour and Tory groups and described the Tory-led Council as a ‘failed administration.’
Launching the new independent group earlier this year he spoke about his group’s motivation, saying councillors should not be “compromised by a slavish attachment to a national party, adding: “We have had enough of the aggressive and bitter reality of party politics.”
And Mr Jones was also a fierce critic of the Conservative government, slamming them last year when he said the government should be “condemned” for making budget cuts too sharply and without the consideration of residents.
In the wake of the announcement, the current leader of the Independent group, Cllr Luke Spillman, isued his own comment, saying: “Today our former councillors, Roy Jones and Graham Snell contacted me to advise me that they were leaving the party to join the Conservative Party. Losing people I regard as good friends is saddening, but I must admit the news came as no surprise to me.
“There are significant differences in my approach to the key issues facing Thurrock compared to the former leadership of our party. The Thurrock Independents are opposed to the closure of Orsett Hospital until a new hospital with A&E facilities is built to replace it. We do not support the poorly designed Tory Local Plan. The Tories want private developers to build 32,000 homes to meet the housing demands of London boroughs, which will increase the population of Thurrock by over 100,000 people.
“At the same time the Tories have accepted tens of thousands of pounds in donations from property firms. The Tory plans to concrete over our borough will be catastrophic for the people of Thurrock.
“We have proposed Council Tax cuts, whereas this Conservative administration has imposed continued and relentless council tax rises. Thurrock residents have seen 10 per cent increases in council tax within just two years of this Tory administration.
“The Tories will propose further increases in February 2019. We hold Conservative Government police, prison, courts, probation and support service cuts, together with the lack or any meaningful plan from our Conservative-run council, largely responsible for the crime and anti-social behaviour epidemic which has plagued Thurrock over the last few months.
“These fundamental differences in policy have, I believe, been the catalyst for their departure. By joining the Tories they must now support an administration which has been a disaster for Thurrock over the last two years. Thurrock deserves so much better than the Conservatives.”