THE Conservative opposition leader on BCP Council is resigning less than a year into the job.

Cllr Bob Lawton has announced today he is quitting, just 48 hours after the ruling Unity Alliance got its first budget approved in full council.

A source inside the Tory group told the Echo: “The knives have been out for Bob.

“Some colleagues blame him for the failure to get the Christchurch Independents on board to give the Conservatives a majority and get control of the council.”

Frontrunner to succeed Cllr Lawton is deputy group leader Cllr Phil Broadhead, but others including Cllr Mohan Iyengar and Cllr Drew Mellor may also try their luck.

In a brief statement to his colleagues, Cllr Lawton said: “After a challenging but enjoyable ten months, it is now time for me to put my family first and hence I am resigning as group leader.

“I shall continue to serve the residents of West Southbourne and I look forward to working with my successor as we continue to hold this administration to account.”

He said it had been a privilege to serve as the first Conservative group leader on BCP.

He told the Echo the decision had nothing to do with the group’s failure to defeat the Unity Alliance budget or to dislodge the alliance, which many Conservatives had believed would only last a few months.

He said the Conservatives had been “on a hiding to nothing” with their budget amendment on Tuesday night.

The internal Tory source said former Bournemouth council leader John Beesley had been warned by party colleagues not to put his name forward because he was “too divisive” a figure.

Cllr Lawton ousted Cllr Beesley last May as negotiations went on over the formation of an administration for the new BCP Council following local elections.

Key to the process was the new Christchurch Independent group, which took eight seats from the Conservatives, effectively denying them a controlling majority.

Instead the Christchurch group joined with others including the Liberal Democrats, Poole People, Labour, Independents and Greens to form multi party alliance.

The source said: “Bob is a straight talker and people saw as a much better bet to get the Christchurch councillors on side, but it hasn’t happened. They are not interested.”