ONE of the Conservative members who signed a complaint against the leader of Bournemouth council has quit the Tory group.

Cllr Stephen Bartlett was among 10 who submitted a formal complaint against council leader Cllr John Beesley in April.

But he was the only councillor to vote against re-appointing Cllr Beesley when the Tory group on the council held its annual general meeting. It is understood around seven councillors stayed away from the meeting and some others left before the vote on the leadership.

Cllr Bartlett, who was elected in 2015 to represent Redhill and Northbourne, said he would continue as an independent.

His split with the Tories means there are now three opposition councillors on the 54-seat council – two independents and a Green.

In a statement, Cllr Bartlett said: “It is known that I am one of 10 Conservative councillors who have made a complaint against the leader of the council, Cllr John Beesley. The complaint is currently under investigation so it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on this.

“However, since making the complaint, at a recent Conservative group annual general meeting, I was the only member present to vote against Cllr Beesley’s re-election as leader, thereby putting me at odds with most of the group.

“In these circumstances and with little prospect of the complaint against Cllr Beesley likely to be resolved within the near future, I have concluded that I can better represent the Redhill and Northbourne residents as an independent councillor.”

The council's leader has been under fire since the sudden departure in March of borough chief executive Tony Williams, who was made redundant with a payoff worth £394,000.

The complaint by councillors alleges he failed to properly make declarations of pecuniary interest. A key part of the complaint is thought to be Cllr Beesley’s involvement in a planning application which was granted for the Belvedere Hotel, in which he acted as consultant to the developer.

Cllr Bartlett’s statement said: “I remain very concerned regarding the related issues of the granting of planning consent for a new hotel without car parking on the Belvedere Hotel site, and why the former chief executive, Tony Williams, left the council at such short notice and the process then used to make his post redundant.”

He said he would remain a member of the party.

Fellow Tory councillor Don McQueen said: “He is a real loss to the group but a man of real integrity and principle and I fully respect and understand his decision given the complaint we made.”

Independent councillor Anne Rey said she could not comment on Cllr Beesley’s position ahead of a standards board enquiry.

But she added: “I would say generally that when you get a big group in power, it’s not healthy and I think even the leader would agree with that."