A BOURNEMOUTH councillor has defected from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats, claiming the “controlling” Tory group would not let him speak his mind.

Cllr Michael Griffiths, who represents Littledown and Iford, claims crucial council decisions are made by a “ruling clique” and that Conservative councillors are “whipped” into agreeing.

He cited the issues of Townsend School, the town centre master vision and the plans to outsource council services as examples where councillors were not allowed to question decisions.

He is also critical of David Cameron and his performance as Conservative leader.

He said: “The Liberal Democrats don’t officially have a whip and that’s really important to me. With the Conservative party, it always felt that they had an agenda and you had to go with it.

“I’m going to speak to residents, find out exactly what they want now that I’ve switched parties and act on their wishes.

“That’s what I promised to do before being elected but it was not that easy in the Conservative party.”

But Conservative group leader Cllr Stephen MacLoughlin said Cllr Griffiths’ accusations were made for “party political reasons”.

He said he was disappointed he had defected but added: “I know he’s found it difficult over the last couple of years. There have been a few occasions when I’ve had to speak to him to make sure he understood the council’s procedures and processes.”

Cllr MacLoughlin added “He wasn’t re-selected by his ward committee in Littledown and Iford a few weeks ago to stand as our candidate in the May 2011 elections.”

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