Tenant row Tory councillor quits party

By Harriet Ernstsons Friday 22 February 2013 Updated: 22/02 10:04

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Buy photos » Coun Mike Braley has quit the Conservative Party. (s)

A BOROUGH councillor who sparked outrage with his controversial comments about council tenants has announced he has quit the Conservatives.

But Coun Mike Braley insisted his decision not to renew his party membership had nothing to do with the controversy caused by his claim council houses in Redditch were being used to grow cannabis and for prostitution - reported in last week's Standard - but David Cameron's leadership.

Coun Braley said he found himself in opposition with the party nationally on issues including the need to protect the defence budget, speeding up spending cuts and the Prime Minister's support for gay marriage.

He said he shared the view of the Catholic Church on same sex marriage and hoped he could rejoin the Conservatives in the future once there was a different national leader.

Coun Braley added he expected to still vote with the Conservatives on most matters, adding it had been a privilege to serve under group leader Carole Gandy and he apologised to her and his former colleagues for any distress caused to them.

But he refused to apologise to the public when asked to do so at a full council meeting on Monday (February 18).

Coun Braley said reports produced in 2009 had shown as many as one per cent of social houses across the country were affected by drug use or prostitution, which would equate to more than 60 homes within Redditch borough.

"These same activities clearly go on in private properties. Are we really to believe Redditch is different from everywhere else and it doesn't happen here?"

He added when he had first joined the council, he felt it was 'rather strange' the authority felt it was 'some way better than others' despite poor education, poor job opportunities and poor health outcomes.

"I remain convinced Redditch is a nice place but it faces greater challenges than other towns. Some councillors and other members of the party think we're immune to problems identified in the report."

But Coun Braley's lack of a public apology angered Labour councillors, with deputy mayor Wanda King telling him: "At the end of the day your comments have been highly insulting to not only myself and my family but also thousands of council tenants and I think you should make a public apology now."

She added his comments were 'disgusting' and had made them look like a 'cheap council'.

Conservative councillors have been keen to distance themselves from Coun Braley's remarks.

Coun Gandy said: "As leader of the Conservative group I do not share the views expressed by Coun Braley at that meeting.

"I have spoken to all of the members of my group and I can assure both residents and council members that none of them share these views either."

Coun Braley will remain on the council as an independent.

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