Ninth defection means Conservatives continue to lose their grip on North Norfolk council

Norman Smith has joined the Independent group on NNDC. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Norman Smith has joined the Independent group on NNDC. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Another North Norfolk district councillor has quit the Conservative group, in the latest in a string of similar resignations.

Norman Smith, the ward member for Erpingham, has joined the Independent Group with immediate effect.

It comes on the back of eight defections last year and means the council is now made up of 22 Conservatives, 17 Liberal Democrats, eight Independents with one vacancy in the Worstead ward, following the resignation of Glyn Williams for health reasons.

The Conservative party also lost control of the council's committees at the December meeting of Full Council.

Mr Smith said: 'I do believe in Conservatism but I believe there needs to be a restraining rein sometimes. Although I'm a Conservative I'm not dyed-in-the-wool. I shall probably still back the Conservatives quite a lot, though.'

He said he was particularly keen to push small businesses, and improve mental health services in north Norfolk.

Mr Smith added that he had been thinking about switching sides for a while, but finally made the plunge after others had joined the Independent group.

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Nick Coppack, Leader of the Independent Group at NNDC, said he was delighted.

He added: 'Councillor Smith has a wealth of experience of local government and will be a most welcome and valued member of our team.'

Sarah Butikofer, leader of the Lib Dem group on the council, said: 'It is very clear that Tom FitzPatrick and his Cabinet no longer have the confidence of the majority of councillors.

'This is a very important time with the budget setting process now under way, a time when residents look for clear and decisive leadership.

'It is time to move back to the committee system of governance. If we can bring together the skills offered by members of all parties we can move forwards, if not, we risk stagnating during a critical period for the council. We cannot allow that to happen.'

Conservative leader Tom FitzPatrick remains leader of the council, despite no longer holding a party majority.

He wished Mr Smith all the best, but added that resignees should explain their actions to the voters.

'We are generally a very happy council,' he added.