THE former leader of Havant Borough Council has announced he’s stepping down at the next local elections.
Councillor David Gillett, who represents Emsworth, has informed Havant Conservative Association he will step down in May next year for personal reasons.
He is the second high-profile Tory to announce their departure in a month from the council, which is Conservative-dominated.
Long-term Hayling councillor Victor Pierce-Jones resigned from the party last month and now stands as the council’s only independent member.
He blamed his decision, which has also seen him withdraw as chairman of Hayling Island Conservative Association, on the way the party fundraises locally.
Councillor Tony Briggs, the current leader of the council, said of Cllr Gillett: ‘He has not stepped down, but he intends to do so before the next election.
‘It is for personal reasons I understand.
‘Beyond that I have no information, he just advised me.
‘Who will stand in his ward at the next election is not up to me, it’s up to the association.
‘It’s nothing to do with me, other than I would sit on the selection board.’
Regarding Cllr Pierce-Jones, he said: ‘Victor Pierce-Jones is Victor Pierce-Jones.
‘He is a character and unfortunately personalities have got in the way somewhere along the line.
‘I still believe he is a Conservative, albeit he has resigned the Conservative whip.’
Councillor Pierce-Jones has represented Hayling since 2002 and is a popular figure on the island.
At one stage, there were rumours he was going to defect to UKIP.
But he denied that, saying: ‘I’m going to stay independent.
‘I think the council is short of independence, and there’s such a high number on the Conservative side, we need to balance it out a bit.
‘That’s why I’m going to stay independent.
‘To be honest with you, I’m not entirely convinced UKIP is correct.
‘I do think that Britain has a role in Europe.’
The current make up of the council is 33 Tory members, three Labour and one Liberal Democrat.
Despite several attempts by The News to contact Cllr Gillett directly, and through Havant Borough Council, he was unavailable for comment.