Leigh Park councillor quits the Conservative party over mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for NHS workers
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Leigh Park Councillor Tom Moutray, who has represented the Battins ward since May, cut ties with the Tories over a ‘disagreement’ with the government’s mandatory vaccination programme for NHS workers.
The proposals, set to come into force in April 2022, will see health workers who refuse to get the jab facing possible dismissal.
But the embattled politician is now facing calls from his former party to resign entirely over his position.
Defiant Cllr Moutray said he refused to step aside and insisted the government’s compulsory vaccination plan ‘infringes on people’s rights’ and was one he could not support.
He told The News: ‘I was supportive of a voluntary vaccination programme which did not exclude people from doing their chosen profession, which they may have spent years training for as well as tens of thousands of pounds in education.
‘I cannot stand behind a mandatory vaccination programme which I believe infringes on people’s rights to control over their own bodies.’
Cllr Moutray confirmed he will remain as an independent councillor and insisted he would ‘continue to put residents’ best interests at the heart of everything’ he does.
However, the head of Havant Borough Council, Tory councillor Alex Rennie, and the chairman of Havant Conservative Association, Edward Rees, have demanded he cuts his political career short and resigns from the council.
In an email to councillors, seen by The News, Cllr Rennie said: ‘I do not expect councillors to be spokespeople for national party policy and I'm sure we all disagree with it at various points (some more than others).
‘As leader I frequently find the need to challenge the direction that the government sets us locally.
‘But I like to think we are bound together by our shared Conservative values. Which in my mind means more than an individual policy.
‘Due to it being so soon since Clir Moutray was elected, and as he made clear in literature his support for the vaccination programme, myself and Ed Rees as HCA chairman, have asked for him to resign as a councillor and reimburse the Havant Conservative Association for the cost we incurred on his behalf.’
Mr Rees branded Cllr Moutray’s stance as ‘shameful’ and said he would ‘welcome a by-election’ for a new candidate to take the former Tory’s seat.
He said: ‘The residents of Battins elected a Conservative councillor and to deny them that only six months after the election due to disagreement on a national policy that will save lives is shameful. Especially after he stood on a very clear manifesto, supporting the vaccination drive.
‘Cllr Moutray should do the right thing and resign as a councillor.’
Cllr Moutray declined to comment on whether he would pay back the funds to the association.
As previously reported, he took his council seat in May, when he won the Battins seat from Hampshire Independents representative, Malc Carpenter at the local council election.
The ward saw a turnout of 18.25 per cent, and Cllr Moutray took 430 votes, followed by Labour candidate Jason Horton, who took 221.