A “petty” council leader has suspended a rebel Tory who attacked his “crazy” traffic scheme.
Conservative-run Canterbury city council in Kent is proposing to stop people driving directly from one area of the city to another from 2045, by creating five zones to ease congestion and by urging more people to walk and cycle.
Residents and tourists would face as-yet undisclosed fines for travelling across boundaries, via ANPR cameras, unless they venture out on to a new ring road, which will make some one-mile trips 10-miles-long.
On Saturday, Cllr Colin Spooner and other rebel councillors told The Telegraph the scheme was so deeply unpopular among residents that it would lose them the May local election.
In response, the Tory council’s leader Ben Fitter-Harding, who drew up the plan, suspended him.
Mr Fitter-Harding said: “It is with much regret that this morning, following the publication of an article in The Telegraph, I have taken the decision to suspend Cllr Spooner from the Conservative Group for 21 days pending further investigation.”
The council leader claimed he had broken part of the rulebook as “your comments about the local party, national party and myself, which you have expressed in a national publication… crosses the line into bringing the group into disrepute”.
‘The leader has lost the plot’
In the full comments that prompted his ousting, Cllr Spooner, a councillor of eight years, had told the Telegraph: “It’s a crazy idea – the leader, who has lost the plot, in my view, is trying to implement something that the Belgian city of Ghent has, but Canterbury is nothing like Ghent, nobody wants this.
“In implementing this, it’s committing political disarray and the Conservatives will not control Canterbury after May. My belief is that the Conservatives from top to bottom – from central government down to local government – are absolutely ruined.”
On Sunday, Mr Spooner quit to stand as an independent, telling The Telegraph: “I think his actions are petty and very immature. What I said to you was my democratic right and Ben Fitter-Harding was challenging my right to my democratic voice.
“I’ve had lots of people sending messages today wishing me luck and congratulating me today, both residents and other party members.”
In a reversal of trends at other Left-wing local authorities, it is understood that Labour and Lib Dem councillors are unanimously opposed to the eco-scheme in Canterbury, a medieval city of only 43,000 people.
The city currently has an incomplete ring road, and the council wants to build thousands of houses to help fund a £163 million bypass.
But residents question basic practicalities of the zones, such how the ring road would handle every secondary school being located in one zone, supermarkets being scattered about the zones, as well as unreliable public transport.
A similar scheme is being trialled in Oxford from next year, causing huge division and backlash from some residents.