A LONG-standing Tory councillor is joining the Liberal Democrats after quitting the party following a simmering row with senior members.
South Lakeland District Council member Joss Curwen, 79, handed in his resignation recently and has been independent.
But he said today (Tuesday) he is accepting an offer to join the Liberal Democrats, which hold the majority on SLDC.
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Coun Curwen of Kirkby-in-Furness, represents Broughton on SLDC having been a councillor since 1987.
But he says that following the recent elections, he was overlooked for committee places and the grandfather-of-one feels he had been treated ‘disgracefully’.
He told the Gazette: “Two years ago the then chairman of our group, James Airey, pulled me off every committee apart from planning and I’ve still not had a reason why,” said Coun Curwen.
“I’ve never voted against the party in any way.”
“They told me I was too old and that it was time to let the young ones in but I don’t feel I’m too old - I’ll only be too old when they’re putting me in the ground. And some of them are not exactly spring chickens themselves.”
Coun Curwen is the third longest serving councillor on SLDC.
But party chief, Coun David Williams, who leads the Tories on SLDC, claimed: “Councillor Curwen has been making unpleasant and derogatory statements to several members of the Conservative Group and other Conservatives for some considerable time.
“Some time ago, I issued him with several verbal warnings and, eventually, a written warning as to his conduct.”
Coun Williams said a particular incident had meant it had become ‘necessary’ to remove Coun Curwen from the planning committee, adding: “His decision to leave the Conservative Group is entirely his. I have simply pointed out that other people should be given a chance.”
Told that Coun Curwen was joining the Lib Dems, Coun Williams remarked: “They’re welcome to him.”
However Coun Curwen claimed that following his heart attack in January 2013, the Conservatives group had publically said they would cover his ward during his illness but he claims nothing was done so he complained.
“If that’s getting at the Tory group then I’m guilty of it,” said Coun Curwen today.
“I’m in with the Liberals now. And if Mr Williams wants to take the gloves off, I’ll do it.”
It is understood Coun Curwen held talks with Labour which have three seats on SLDC.
Coun Curwen is due for re-election in 2015.
His decision cancels out the recent gain the Tories made in the SLDC elections when it won the Sedbergh and Kirkby Lonsdale seat - its only gain from the Lib Dems, although they also retained Mid Furness.
Previously Coun Curwen has held committee positions on planning, licensing, scrutiny and housing.