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Westminster Conservative raps north Norfolk Tory in-fighting

PUBLISHED: 08:19 28 November 2018 | UPDATED: 08:19 28 November 2018

John Lee, former leader of North Norfolk District Council. Photo: Denise Bradley

John Lee, former leader of North Norfolk District Council. Photo: Denise Bradley

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A senior Conservative in Westminster has blasted the continued turmoil in the party’s north Norfolk group.

Hilary Cox, portfolio holder for leisure, culture and leisure on North Norfolk District Council Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.Hilary Cox, portfolio holder for leisure, culture and leisure on North Norfolk District Council Pic: Norfolk Conservatives.

After two of the group’s senior members accepted positions in the new cross-party cabinet of Liberal Democrat council leader Sarah Butikofer, group leader John Lee wrote to the pair demanding their resignations.

However the two councillors – Hilary Cox and Nigel Dixon – have since stood firm over their decision to accept the roles and refused to resign from the party.

The dispute has led to the group being criticised on a national level, with sources in Westminster condemning the situation.

A Tory Westminster source said: “North Norfolk remains a target seat for the party and the current problems will hardly endear us to the voting public.

Nigel Dixon, portfolio holder for economic development, business and tourism on North Norfolk District Council Picture: NNDCNigel Dixon, portfolio holder for economic development, business and tourism on North Norfolk District Council Picture: NNDC

“With all that is going on nationally, in-fighting in the regions is the last thing we need.”

Following the vote of no confidence in former leader Mr Lee last week, new council leader Mrs Butikofer named her new cabinet on Monday.

Mrs Cox accepted the portfolio for leisure, culture and licensing, while Mr Dixon retained his portfolio in economic development, business and tourism.

However, after their acceptances, north Norfolk Conservative leader John Lee emailed the pair calling for their resignations.

In it, he said: “You are both perfectly aware that over the weekend our group decided we would not support a cross-party cabinet.

“The voters of north Norfolk are being treated with utter contempt by this administration, that has been foisted on them by self-serving councillors.”

However, the pair have dug in their heels over their decisions and their wishes to remain members.

The dispute has been described as “bizarre” by Norman Lamb, north Norfolk’s Liberal Democrat member of parliament.

He said: “It is certainly a bizarre time to be living and working in north Norfolk.

“I admire both of the two councillors who accepted the positions and showed a willingness to work together and believe Sarah is doing the right thing in naming a cross-party cabinet.

“With everything that has gone on in recent years, we should be able to put our differences aside until May when the public can make up its mind about who it wants to lead the council forward.”

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