THE Conservative leader of BCP Council has resigned with immediate effect.

Cllr Drew Mellor, who had been in the role since October 2020, hit out at “civil servant and Treasury orthodoxy”.

The Talbot and Branksome Woods ward member said he was not prepared to deliver a financial strategy based on “maximum council tax and cuts to services”.

Cllr Mellor also confirmed he had already taken the decision not to stand for election in May.

During his time as leader, Cllr Mellor faced a vote of no confidence from some opposition councillors and a petition calling for him to go signed by thousands of residents.

In a statement, he said: “My strategy has been simple: a low council tax, high ambition approach to local government. Unleashing the potential of this fantastic region, but not always resorting to tax hikes to pay for the increasing costs of services.

“That’s why I’ve continually pushed for finding new, sustainable income sources as opposed to the easy solution of selling off the family silver and putting the financial burden onto our residents.

“But it has become clear that this has been at odds with civil servant and Treasury orthodoxy who appear determined that the future of local government is one of maximum council tax and cuts to services.

“This approach is not something I am prepared to deliver. I simply don't believe the council tax payer should always be the hardest hit. And we've proven that successive budgets can be balanced whilst  freezing council tax.

"However, now successive local government ministers, our senior officers and our auditor are determined to hit the tax payer.

“The most recent letter from our auditor was the final straw – making clear that despite our long-term financial stability now assured, any attempt to not seek a full Council Tax rise by generating legal, government sanctioned income streams would be vetoed without even seeing the detail.

"The system is determined to stop any efforts to lessen the burden to council tax payers, and that’s not a situation I can continue to preside over.”

Cllr Mellor said he was “immensely proud of the achievements” of the council and the Conservative administration since he took charge.

He cited improvements in children’s services, with the budget nearly doubled in this area.

The portfolio holder for finance and transformation also referenced “material financial boosts we’ve given to almost every council service” and a reduction in anti-social behaviour.

His statement went on to say that the Conservatives were “committed” to delivering “exceptional services and low taxes”.

He concluded: “Because of all of this, and having already taken the decision not to stand again in May, I feel it is right that those who are standing should lead (for) the next few months into those elections.

“Therefore with a heavy heart but proud record of investing in our incredible region, I am today resigning as leader of BCP Council with immediate effect.”

Cllr Mellor's administration attracted national attention last summer, when government ministers intervened to block controversial plans to fund the local authority's transformation programme.

The then levelling up secretary Greg Clark MP wrote a scathing letter to all council leaders after he torpedoed BCP Council's plan to sell thousands of beach huts to a company it would wholly or majority own and use this money under flexible use of capital receipts regulations.

The guidance of these regulations was subsequently changed in light of the authority's plan, which was deemed to not be in the spirit of the rules.