POOLE councillor Marion Pope has resigned the Tory whip, telling the Echo she "jumped before she was pushed" after railing against the "near dictatorship" of the ruling group.

Cllr Pope was elected on a Conservative ticket in May last year, but said she has been locking horns with leaders for months.

Matters came to a head over an 0.9 per cent increase in rent for tennants in sheltered housing, part of the Housing Revenue Account budget which came before the council in February.

Cllr Pope, chairman of the Health and Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Committee, told the Echo that while most of the decisions had come before her committee for scrutiny, the increase for sheltered housing tenants had not - apparently because the departmental guidelines on the matter were issued too late. She maintains they came out three days before an extra meeting of scrutiny committee that she chairs.

She told the Echo: "They added the increase onto my report and it was something I could not support."

Despite pressure to toe the party line, she voted against her ruling group at the meeting in February, announcing that same evening that she would resign the conservative whip - leaving the party with a majority of 31.

She told the Echo: "It's worrying that a party with such a huge majority is afraid of anyone saying no to them."

She added that she was not prepared to "go along with something for a quiet life. The whole thing is totally futile in terms of democracy."

Janet Walton, leader of Borough of Poole, said: "It is expected that there will be differences of opinion which is considered constructive to working as a team to make well informed and good decisions."

She added that the Conservative group in Poole 'has not been in the habit of applying the whip to its members.'

She continued: "The Government announcement to exclude areas of supported housing from the one-per-cent rent reduction for one year was made late and at short notice. The rationale for this decision was the extra cost involved in the provision of this service.

"There was no opportunity to take this to the relevant scrutiny committee due to the tight time scale of the council's budget setting. Cabinet therefore recommended the matter was taken to full council following resident consultation for all members to debate.

"Councillor Pope has made it clear she does not wish to work within a group framework preferring to act as an Independent. We thank her for her contribution to the Committees she has served on and wish her well in her new role."