A KEY Conservative politician has spoken of his ‘confusion’ at accusations his group had bullied a Tory rebel who was kicked out of the party.
Uttoxeter area borough councillor Nathan Birnie said his party colleagues ‘bullied and harassed’ him leading up to the hearing at which he was expelled.
He claimed they were ‘fully aware’ of his mental health issues – namely depression and obsessive compulsive disorder – when they set a date for the meeting.
However, Richard Grosvenor, leader of the ruling Tory group at East Staffordshire Borough Council, was ‘perplexed’ by Councillor Birnie’s comments.
He told the Advertiser he called the now-UKIP representative several times when he found out he was on medication for his illness during the summer.
Councillor Grosvenor said his calls were made ‘purely out of concern for his well-being’.
He said: “I know what it’s like to be bullied. I was overweight and wore glasses at school and was certainly on the receiving end of it.
“I would never subject anyone else to that. I certainly have had no part in bullying Nathan and, as far as I’m aware, neither have any of the Conservative group on the council.
“He left the party in May and I extended an open invitation to have him back in June, which he rejected.
“Then, when I found out Nathan was having some problems, I called him a few times over the summer to find out how he was getting on.
“I told him that, regardless of the politics, he should let me know if there was anything at all I could do.”
“I hope those calls weren’t taken in any other way and we’ve since agreed to meet up to discuss how we’re going to take things forward for the good of the borough. That’s the most important thing.”
Councillor Birnie was expelled along with fellow Uttoxeter area councillor Peter Ball after both helped vote in Labour’s Martin Blencowe as chairman of the borough council planning committee.
He immediately joined euro-sceptics UKIP just weeks before being installed as leader of the East Staffordshire Independents, a new four-man group of former Tories now holding the casting vote on any proposals cabinet tries to push through.
Other members of the group are Malcolm Barrett, Robert Hardwick and Peter Ball, who quit the Conservatives along with Councillor Birnie for undisclosed reasons.
The ruling Conservatives no longer have the majority in the borough with the council now made up of 18 Tories, 16 Labour representatives, one Lib Dem and the new group.
Councillor Grosvenor’s comments come after Councillor Birnie sent an email to the East Staffordshire Conservative Group expressing his wish to have his expulsion overturned.
Councillor Birnie said: “This is categorically not a request to quit UKIP and rejoin the Conservatives.
“I emailed the party asking for the minutes of the hearing so I could set the record straight as I’ve now beaten my illness.”