A LEADING Conservative councillor has quit the party’s group on Poole council after disagreements with the leader.

The resignation of Councillor Tony Woodcock, a former member of the council’s cabinet, leaves the Tories with only one more seat than the Liberal Democrats on the hung council.

It is understood he quit over disagreements with council leader Cllr Elaine Atkinson.

Cllr Woodcock represents Parkstone ward and has served as cabinet member for education and children’s services. He sits on several key council committees, including the planning committee. He is a retired educational administrator who founded a primary school in Brussels.

He confirmed he had resigned from the Tory group but he said he would set out his reasons in a statement to be issued later.

Fellow Conservative Cllr Judy Butt was recently sacked from the council’s cabinet for opposing plans for a transit site for gypsies and travellers at Creekmoor.

Cllr Butt said: “I’m so sad. Tony and I have been friends for many years and were elected on the same day in May 1999.

“Tony is a highly intelligent, much respected member of the Conservative group, respected for his knowledge and his ability to challenge where necessary.

“He’s a massive loss to the conservative group but he’s a very reasonable guy and I hope we will be able to find ways of working with him in the future.”

Cllr Woodcock’s split from the Conservatives leaves his party with 19 seats, while the Liberal Democrats have 18 and Poole People Party four.

It is not known whether he will join another group.

The council’s leader could not be reached for comment at the weekend.