The Wokingham Paper

Second Wokingham Tory quits, forcing new by-election

Chris Singleton
Former borough councillor Chris Singleton. He has quit his Emmbrook seat citing issues with his fellow councillors but declined to state what they were

A SECOND Conservative councillor has quit the borough council citing issues with his fellow ward councillors.

Chris Singleton resigned on Friday last week, triggering a by-election in his Emmbrook ward, which will be held on Friday, February 17.

It comes days after Cllr Gary Cowan resigned the Conservative party, calling it a ‘secretive regime with a blatant distrust of its residents’.

During his time in politics, Mr Singleton has served as a town councillor, chair of the Chamber of Commerce and borough councillor. He also served as deputy borough mayor, deputy executive for planning and highways and chaired the Local Plan validation working group.

However, in a statement Wokingham Conservatives said that “Chris withdrew his name from the Approved Candidate List for the 2018 elections in December and has now formally resigned owing to the ongoing difficulties with the two other Emmbrook Councillors”.

The other ward councillors are Cllr UllaKarin Clark and Cllr Philip Mirfin.

Mr Singleton told The Wokingham Paper: “[There are] ongoing difficulties with the other ward members. I tried on a number of occasions over the last couple of years, with the election coming up in as it was in last year, May 2016, I did try and get them round the table, so it’s been me that was looking for resolution, it was unsuccessful. But the reason I did is that I wanted to sort it out.

“I thought we should clear the air before the election and all the canvassing. It was clear it wasn’t going to be resolved.”

Mr Singleton declined to comment on what the issues were.

“I’ve had a really a good relationship with other councillors and officers: I’ve had tremendous support from all of them, and from residents in the ward. I’m really happy with that.

“Over the past two to three years I’ve been given some very interesting assignments and responsibilities within the council which I really have enjoyed. It’s against that background – an awful lot of positives – but the fundamental thing is the ongoing difficulty with the ward councillors.

“I’m not going to give details as to what they are – I’m not going to dish the dirt, frankly. The best thing is that we part on the best possible terms.”

Mr Singleton was offered another ward, including Arborfield, but instead he chose to take a break from politics.

“I fundamentally believe that elected representatives are there to serve the community,” he said.

“I’m not going to drop out. I’m fit and healthy and I’m looking at the moment where I might be able to help in the voluntary sector. I’m not going to be specific, I want this to be a considered change. I hope I will be able to continue to be part of the community.

“I don’t want to drop out totally, that’s not my way.”

In 2014, before The Wokingham Paper started publishing, Mr Singleton was found guilty of bullying behaviour by the Borough Council’s standards committee.

“The panel heard sufficient evidence that Cllr Singleton on 23 February 2014 behaved in a way which was intimidating and humiliating,” the report revealed.

Leader of Wokingham Conservatives, Cllr Keith Baker, said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank Chris Singleton for his hard work and dedication to the residents of Emmbrook.

“I’m looking forward to working with our candidate, Kevin Morgan, as we put forward our track record of fighting for the people of Emmbrook and the wider Wokingham area to residents in this upcoming by-election.

“We have achieved much in recent years and continue to deliver for Wokingham as part of the Conservatives plan to build a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few.”

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “I was on the planning committee with him for three years and always found him a quiet and conscientious person.

“I don’t know what on earth has gone on between Chris and his Emmbrook colleagues. What I saw at the end of his time as deputy mayoral year: Cllr UllaKarin Clark didn’t even thank or mention Chris in her speech. Something must have happened.

“He seemed quite happy in the summer, but all of a sudden something happened last autumn as he began to look despondent. He could have been bullied, I don’t know. But for someone to resign 15 months from the end of his reign … something serious must have happened for him to resign.

“This just reinforces the malaise that appears to be within the ruling Conservative Group”.

At last May’s council election, the Liberal Democrat candidate, Imogen Shepherd-DuBey, come within 13 votes of taking an Emmbrook seat from Cllr UllaKarin Clark in a tight contest where the Tories were accused – and cleared – of dirty tactics with their leaflets.

Mrs Shepherd-DuBey will stand again.

Nominations close on Monday.

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Kaz Lokuciewski

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