UKIP councillor will not step down for by-election

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A councillor who defected to UKIP from the Conservatives said he would not waste taxpayers’ money by standing down and forcing a by-election.

Southgate Cllr Karl Williamson joined UKIP in July after accusing then council Leader Cllr Bob Lanzer of harassment.

Party and police investigations into the allegations were dropped and Cllr Lanzer has since resigned his post as leader.

Cllr Williamson’s decision to leave the Conservatives left some Tory voters unhappy that the ward was to be represented in part by UKIP.

And there have been calls for him to step down and trigger a by-election.

Andy Clark, of Crawley, contacted the Observer and said: “Cllr Williamson was voted in as a Conservative councillor by the people in his ward and to my mind, by changing to UKIP, no longer represents those that voted for him as they did not vote UKIP.”

He added: “I personally would not be happy if the person I voted for changed colours mid term. Something is wrong when this occurs and they are allowed to just carry on.”

Mr Clark’s views were echoed by other Crawley residents.

Writing on the Observer’s Facebook page, Eddy Becket said: “If the vote was won as Tory then it should stay Tory. Now he is UKIP he should be dumped and someone else should step in (from the Conservative party) until a by-election has taken place.

“The politics in this town are ridiculous at the moment as they all seem to be behaving like school children in the playground.

“How long before ‘my dad’s bigger than your dad’ crops up on the front page?”

Joseph Tiberius Wood added: “People voted Tory not UKIP. It’s unfair and undemocratic.”

Cllr Howard Bloom (Con, Southgate) called the defection a “blow for the voters” and added: “Personally I would like to see councillors that change their party stand down and seek re-election in their new colours as, in Crawley, voters expect those they have elected to support their election commitments.”

Labour group leader Cllr Peter Lamb said: “In the UK we technically vote for candidates rather than parties, so it would be hard to justify changing the law without wider electoral reform, although I would personally be interested in giving the public the right to recall their representatives.

“That said, given the number of people who vote on party lines, I do believe that calling a by-election would be the right thing to do.”

Cllr Williamson’s decision to switch parties is the first time such a defection has taken place since Tory councillor Marcella Head joined the Liberal Democrats in 2006.

He will be up for re-election in 2015, and said a by-election would “achieve nothing”, insisting he would still “fight for my residents” in Southgate.

He added: “I am here to prove that UKIP can deliver in local government and I am still dedicated to Southgate.

“In regards to 2015, it is my intention to re-stand as a UKIP candidate.”

A spokesman for Crawley Borough Council explained that a by-election could not be called unless a councillor resigns his ward, is no longer a councillor or is otherwise disqualified from holding the office.

He added: “After a councillor has been elected there is nothing in law to prevent them from joining any political group on the council or from remaining outside any political group.

“Legally, there is no connection with the description that was used on the ballot paper and membership of a political group on the council.”