Angry Hughes brands own Tory leaders ‘spineless and arrogant’

Cllr Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for Highways and Transportation, inspects the aftermath of recent

Cllr Stuart Hughes, cabinet member for Highways and Transportation, inspects the aftermath of recent floods. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref shs 7607-48-12AW - Credit: Archant

STUART Hughes has sensationally slammed his own Conservative leaders as ‘spineless and arrogant’ after he was removed from a top district council post.

The Sidmouth representative claimed yesterday that he had been punished for sticking up for the constituents who elected him - something top Tories categorically deny.

Councillor Hughes is set to be deposed as the chairman of East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) overview and scrutiny committee next week.

Agenda papers for the authority’s annual meeting on Wednesday show he will be replaced by Exmouth’s Tim Wood.

Mr Hughes will also become a back-bencher at full council meetings - and is one of only two district councillors without a seat on a single committee.

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He feels he has paid the price of being critical of the East Devon Business Forum (EDBF), hugely contentious proposals for a business park at Sidford and defeated plans to redevelop Knowle.

District council bosses say they made the move due to his hefty workload at County Hall being in conflict with the scrutiny job.

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Mr Hughes, who was named Devon County Council’s cabinet member for highways and flooding this week, rubbished the claim – citing the fact he has just ended his tenure as chairman of the town council.

“I am extremely disappointed, certainly with the excuses that have been made,” he said.

“I am not doing half of the work I did two years ago. It is a poor excuse and the type of thing I would expect from the leadership. They are spineless and arrogant.

“I think the reason they have done it is because I had stood up for the people of Sidmouth – and that is what I will continue to do at EDDC.”

Cllr Hughes’ last act as scrutiny chairman was to support a proposal from a Liberal Democrat councillor to allow a task and finish forum looking into the EDBF to discuss planning issues.

Councillor Phil Twiss, chief whip for the district council’s Conservatives, said he had spoken with Mr Hughes about the decision on behalf of leader Paul Diviani.

He said Mr Hughes’ prominent role at County Hall was a major factor – as chairing the overview and scrutiny committee is an important job that takes up ‘an awful lot of time’.

“It is absolutely nothing to do with any Sidmouth issues and is purely how we can do the best job for the people of East Devon,” said Cllr Twiss.

“Stuart is entitled to his view. He obviously feels he has been booted out – but that is not the case.”

Another Sidmouth representative, Councillor Graham Troman, who has led the EDBF task and finish forum, is set to be named vice-chairman of the overview and scrutiny committee.

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