Party's leader accuses Tory defector of being 'semi-detached'
THE Tory leader of Derbyshire County Council has questioned the work ethic of one of his own councillors, who announced on Friday that she was joining the UK Independence Party.
Councillor Juliette Stevens said she was quitting the Tory group ahead of an upcoming election as it had "failed to represent" the views of her constituents.
Andrew Lewer – whose Tory administration came to power in 2009 – said it was Ms Stevens who had let people down. Speaking to the Derby Telegraph, he accused her of a lack of commitment to Derbyshire and her Heage ward over the past four years.
Mr Lewer said: "Juliette's decision is unfortunate but she was standing down as a Conservative candidate on May 2 anyway.
"For some time, she has been a semi-detached group member, both in terms of attendance and input."
Ms Stevens, nee Blake, was elected to represent Heage in 2009 – gaining the seat for the Tories as they won the county from Labour after 28 years.
In a statement on Friday, she said she had decided to join UKIP in the hope of giving voters "a fourth option" at the forthcoming elections.
Ms Stevens – who has previously been leader of Ripley Town Council and sat on Amber Valley Borough Council – said: "I have long felt that the Conservative Party, both locally and nationally, is losing touch with the electorate.
"While the Conservatives are a far better option than Labour or the Liberal Democrats, I am convinced the people of Derbyshire deserve more."
Elections will take place in May and Ms Stevens said she had waited as long as she could before making the move.
She said: "My intention is to help UKIP, which is fresh, energetic and optimistic, to help fight for seats.
"I'd encourage anybody who has been turned off voting by three tired old parties, to look at what UKIP can offer – a chance to bring real democracy back to local politics in Derbyshire."