Ribble Valley’s Liberal Democrats are in crisis after two long-serving councillors decided to join the Conservatives – two months before the local council elections.
Conservatives’ local government ranks have been swelled in the Ribble Valley after former Lib-Dem councillor Ruth Hargreaves, who represents Edisford and Low Moor in Clitheroe, decided to switch to the borough council’s ruling Tory group.
She was joined by ex-Conservative and then Independent Alston and Hothersall ward councillor Jim Rogerson – bringing the total number of Tory councillors to 35, as opposed to just five Lib-Dem councillors.
Although Coun. Hargreaves criticised the policies of her former party – both locally and nationally – she insisted it would be “business as usual” for residents in her Clitheroe ward.
She said: “As a local councillor I am passionate about local issues within the community I serve. Recently, I have become disheartened with the Lib-Dems as a coalition at central Government level and feel they have missed many opportunities for change. I sometimes feel this filters down to local level and we have not always worked as a team.
“I would like to continue my work as a local councillor and feel I could work more effectively with the support of the Conservative Party.”
Recently, I have become disheartened with the Lib-Dems as a coalition at central Government level and feel they have missed many opportunities for change. I sometimes feel this filters down to local level and we have not always worked as a teamEx Lib-Dem councillor Ruth Hargreaves
Welcoming the pair, leader of Ribble Valley Borough Council, Stuart Hirst, said: “I am delighted to welcome Couns Hargreaves and Rogerson to the Conservative Group in Ribble Valley. We believe that we have an outstanding record of success in freezing council tax for six years, balancing the books and maintaining our very high service standards to residents.
“I’m sure they will both bring new talents and enthusiasm to our team to help us continue to serve the people of Ribble Valley and I look forward to working with them.”
Coun. Hargreaves has been a councillor for 12 years – four years a town councillor, four years town and borough and the past four as borough councillor.
Saddened by the defection, Coun. Allan Knox, leader of the Lib-Dems, said: “I am saddened, but not surprised that Coun. Hargreaves has joined another party. She had been unhappy with a few issues for some time, but I would like to reassure our electorates that they will be kept informed of the new appointment before the elections in May.”
There are now 35 Tory councillors and five Lib Dems serving the Ribble Valley. There are no Labour representatives or other independents standing.