Row over sacked councillors ‘could split’ Tory group

Simon Bosher, left, and Robin Sparshatt
Simon Bosher, left, and Robin Sparshatt
Hampshire police and crime commissioner Michael Lane 

Picture: Malcolm Wells

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A ROW has broken out among Portsmouth’s Conservative group after two councillors said they were sacked for not toeing the party line in a controversial vote.

There are now fears from some Tories that the party could be split in the run-up to the local elections in May.

It comes after group leader Cllr Steve Wemyss sacked Cllr Robin Sparshatt and Cllr Simon Bosher from the shadow cabinet.

He maintains the decision was based on the need to cut councillors’ allowances and so save money.

But the sacked pair say they are being removed for voting in favour of loaning £1m to the struggling Pyramids Centre in Southsea.

Cllr Sparshatt, who was Tory spokesman for culture, leisure and sport, said: ‘This decision was purely because Simon and I voted in favour of loaning money to the Pyramids which Steve didn’t want us to do.’

Cllr Sparshatt, who said he will not stand for re-election in Drayton and Farlington ward in May, added: ‘We only get around £1,000 a year extra for being a spokesman.

‘How is saving a few thousand pounds going to help? Any idea that this was a cost-cutting exercise is absolute rubbish.’

Cllr Bosher said he was told he was being removed from his position as Tory spokesman for planning, regeneration and economic development because he voted in favour of spending money to save the Pyramids.

He said: ‘The reason I was given was the same as Robin.’

Another Tory, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions, said Cllr Wemyss had ‘gone too far’.

‘This could really split the party which is not good so close to the elections in May,’ they said.

Also sacked is Tory councillor Malcolm Hey – who sparked anger after walking out of a council chamber before the reading of a Muslim prayer – who was removed from his £1,000-a-year position on the council’s housing executive for not attending meetings.

Cllr Weymss stressed it was all about saving money, but admitted that the Pyramids vote had played a part.

He said: ‘We didn’t need as many portfolio holders as we had.

‘But when you are making people redundant you have to have a rationale behind the decisions and we chose these people because they voted a particular way when we had agreed a group position and the other one because he couldn’t attend his meetings.’