Eastcotts councillor defects to Conservative Group from Lib Dems

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Cllr Sarah Gallagher has defected from the Liberal Democrats to the Conservative Group

A former Liberal Democrat councillor has defected to the Conservative Group, saying she is disillusioned with the Mayor of Bedford’s policies.

Cllr Sarah Gallagher, who represents Eastcotts ward, has held the role since she was first elected in 2009 and previously held the culture and leisure portfolio in the Mayor’s cabinet.

In the last local elections in May 2019, she won with 62% of the votes, with the Conservative candidate taking 19.9%.

In a statement, Cllr Gallagher said she feels that Dave Hodgson, Bedford’s elected Mayor, isn’t willing to listen to alternative views within his Liberal Democrat Group and after thinking it over, believes it has come to the point where she no longer feels able to continue in his party.

She cited the East West Rail project as one of the reasons for her defection.

“For some time now, I have felt increasingly distant from the Mayor of Bedford and the Liberal Democrat Council Group,” said Cllr Gallagher.

“This is a position that I feel unable to continue with and believe that the time is right to do something about it.

“I have therefore taken the very difficult decision to leave the Liberal Democrat Group with immediate effect and will be joining the Conservative Group, with whom my views are listened to and are increasingly aligned.”

Cllr Gallagher said that her decision will not affect the residents of Eastcotts ward in any way, a view that was refuted by the Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Cllr Christine McHugh.

“It is a strange choice to join the local Tories who now reject the two northern routes for East West Rail, having previously supported them, so presumably the Tory Group would like to see one of the three southern routes – all of which would go through her ward of Eastcotts.”

The Conservative Group Leader, Cllr Graeme Coombes, said he felt Sarah’s disillusion with the Mayor was, “perfectly understandable”.

“Many Bedford residents also feel increasingly ignored by the Mayor as he pushes increasingly unpopular policies on issues such as East West Rail and new housing developments.

“I look forward to working with Sarah and listening to her views on how the interests of her residents can best be served.”

In a statement from the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Mc Hugh said: “It is true that Sarah has been distant from the Group since she was demoted from being a Portfolio Holder.

“Whether Group members are Portfolio Holders or not we expect them to work for the good of the whole borough as well as their local residents.

“It is the Conservative government who are forcing housing numbers on the Borough which impact villages such as Shortstown, Cotton End, Cardington and Cople.

“Yet the Conservative government ignored Bedford Borough in the budget while they invest in levelling up elsewhere.

“And in last week’s disastrous budget announcement coupled with the decision to raise National Insurance, the Conservatives have made life harder for so many working people and families.

“The Conservative government has mishandled the COVID crisis from the start.”

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