10:00PM, Wednesday 17 June 2020
Cllr Gurch Singh (left) has defected to the Lib Dems from the Conservatives amid suspension claims.
Conservative councillor Gurch Singh has defected to the Lib Dems amid claims from the Royal Borough leader that he was facing suspension from the borough’s Tory group.
Maidenhead Lib Dems tweeted this evening that they were ‘surprised to discover’ Cllr Singh (St Mary’s) had joined their group on the council, adding he wishes to be ‘free from the political whip’.
But council leader Andrew Johnson hit back with an extraordinary post on his official Facebook page, claiming that he had emailed Cllr Singh earlier that day to inform him he was suspended from the RBWM Conservative Group pending further investigation into his conduct.
Cllr Johnson said Cllr Singh was under internal investigation for a series of alleged code of conduct breaches and ‘has taken the decision to defect to the Liberal Democrats, rather than face the consequences of his acts’.
He added: “Please consider this communication as confirmation that Cllr Gurch Singh has been permanently expelled from RBWM Conservatives and the Conservative Party.”
Following the allegations from Cllr Johnson, the Liberal Democrats released a statement, which says: “We request that the Conservatives provide all the evidence they have to us and to the RBWM monitoring officer immediately. We are shocked to hear they held an internal investigation rather than passing on the information to the RBWM Monitoring Officer as they are required to do.
“We are at a loss to understand, given the grave nature and sheer number of the allegations made, why this has not been done earlier, or why the Conservatives would want to install Cllr Singh as their vice-chair of the Infrastructure Overview and Scrutiny Panel - a role that requires great integrity.
“If the allegations are true, we will take immediate action as there is no place for this in the Liberal Democrats.”
UPDATE: Thursday, June 18, 4.09pm
In response to the allegations made against him, Cllr Singh said: “I believe I have acted properly and have represented residents well during my time as a councillor and will continue to do so.
"I was appalled to see Cllr Andrew Johnson’s comments.
"For a party that publicly denounces bullying, Cllr Johnson’s decision to ignore the correct procedures and opt instead for trial by media, personal attacks and online abuse seems quite contradictory. Have we not learnt anything from the tragic death of Caroline Flack?
"The first I had been made aware of any suspension was an email I received from Cllr Johnson yesterday at 4.05pm after I had already left the Conservative Party and joined the Liberal Democrat council group.
"I would ask Cllr Johnson to follow the correct procedure through the appropriate channels with the Monitoring Officer at the council immediately, as he is required to do. I am more than happy to meet with the monitoring officer in order to clear my name."