South Norfolk’s Conservative group accused of acting like ‘North Korea’ over suspension of councillor

PUBLISHED: 09:35 12 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:00 12 October 2017

Clayton Hudson. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Clayton Hudson. Picture: Sonya Duncan

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2015

A South Norfolk councillor has accused the district council’s Conservative group of ‘acting like North Korea’ by refusing to allow differences of opinion.

Beck Vale ward councillor Clayton Hudson has been ‘temporarily administratively suspended’ from the Tory group pending a disciplinary hearing.

Mr Hudson says he was removed from the group because of his stance over the introduction of charges at Harleston town centre car parks, which he wants to remain free.

But Michael Edney, the council’s deputy leader and member of the Mid Norfolk Conservatives, said Mr Hudson was suspended because he broke protocol over a complaint by going public with details about it before a disciplinary panel hearing.

Mr Hudson, who lives in Pulham St Mary and has served on the council’s cabinet led by Conservative John Fuller, said: “I have consistently been opposed to anything but free parking for Harleston, because that’s what the town council and the residents want. But that put me at odds with the group’s position.

“South Norfolk is not like North Korea where we all have to say how wonderful our leader is. I thought we lived in a democracy and I’m just standing up for it.

“Even Theresa May has had people telling her to fire Boris (Johnson) all week. But she doesn’t want a cabinet full of yes men or women, she wants to have a constructive debate over the issues, and so should we.”

Mr Hudson said he hoped to be accepted back into the group, and if so planned to challenge Mr Fuller for his position at a party meeting next April.

He said the introduction of car parking in Harleston had been so drawn out, it proved the council was incapable of dealing with big issues in the district such as the need for a Long Stratton bypass.

Harleston. Picture: APS (UK) Harleston. Picture: APS (UK)

But Mr Edney said Mr Hudson was suspended because he published details of a complaint made about him on Twitter. Mr Edney said: “I made a complaint about him, which is utterly confidential during the disciplinary process.

“He chose to go outside that and that’s why he has been suspended.

“Likewise if he complained about me the group would have to investigate and I wouldn’t be allowed to talk about it.”

Mr Fuller said: “I am sad Clayton feels aggrieved, but we do not conduct confidential business on Twitter or in the press.”

He said the group was robustly democratic, and he had been elected the country’s lead district councillor in June this year.

Mr Fuller said: “That doesn’t happen if you can’t work with the widest number of people.”

The complaint related to Mr Hudson sharing financial details of the car park costs for Harleston.

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