ONE of Launceston’s Conservative members of Cornwall Council has dubbed his own Tory leader Linda Taylor a “dictator” and said she forced him off a committee because he disagreed with former MP Steve Double’s wife becoming its chairman.

Cllr John Conway said he’s now considering his future as a member of the local authority’s ruling Conservative group. He’s also said that he is aware that other Tory councillors are also questioning their future.

The inter-party row erupted after Cllr Anne Double – wife of Steve Double, who hopes to be re-elected as St Austell and Newquay’s Conservative MP at the General Election – was voted in as chairman of the council’s economic growth and development overview and scrutiny committee, despite not being a member of the committee before yesterday’s meeting.

Cllr Conway, the Tory councillor for Launceston South, said he made it clear before the meeting that he couldn’t vote for Cllr Double and preferred that vice-chairman and fellow Conservative Peter Perry took on the chair role. He says as a result he was removed from the committee by the leader ten minutes before the meeting. Cllr Taylor argues that he wasn’t removed from the committee but was substituted just for that meeting.

It was announced at the beginning of the meeting that committee member Cllr Conway was simply observing. Independent councillor Tim Dwelly, who was also nominated as possible chairman of the committee by Lib Dem councillor Leigh Frost but was ultimately unsuccessful, said during the meeting: “I was rather surprised to find out that Cllr Conway was this morning removed from the committee. It would be interesting for the public to find out why.”

Cllr Dwelly questioned whether it was a good idea for Cllr Double to chair the committee for the final year of the present administration before next May’s council election. “With no disrespect to Cllr Double, [she] hasn’t been at any of our meetings and as far as I’m aware doesn’t know much about these portfolios.” He added the committee had previously worked in a cross-party way and it wasn’t a “political bullring and I fear today it’s about to become that and I think that’s very regrettable”.

Following the meeting, Cllr Conway told us: “You may well wonder why I have been removed from the committee at ten minutes’ notice. The answer is simple, I have no confidence in Cllr Double parachuted in at less than 24 hours’ notice.

“How can I vote for a councillor who spends much of full council on her laptop doing casework,” which Cllr Conway argued was not for Cornwall Council but for Cllr Double’s husband. He claims to know this because he has sat behind her at council meetings and had seen her screen. “One can only assume that her position is so precarious there that she thinks Noah Law may win the seat in the General Election,” he added. Cllr Double said his comments were “totally outrageous”.

“The chairman of this committee needs to be neutral on the future of Newquay Airport and consider any proposal on its merits,” said Cllr Conway, who is concerned there may be a conflict of interest as Cllr Double also sits on the airport’s consultative forum.

He added: “Having had assurances that vindictiveness would not occur if councillors do not vote as instructed, one can see how hollow they were. Yes, I did make my intention not to vote for Cllr Double clear beforehand; the case for secret ballots is apparent.

“On reflection, I should have kept my powder dry and voted with my conscience at the meeting. This may have resulted in my expulsion from the Conservative group. Meanwhile I am considering my options. Is there a future for anyone in a group ruled by a dictator?”

Cllr Conway said: “I’m definitely thinking of leaving the Conservative group. I’m not the only Tory at present unhappy about things. There are several who have got various different gripes.”

Council leader Linda Taylor responded to her fellow Tory’s concerns and particularly denied being a ‘dictator’. “I’m really disappointed at being called a dictator. I consider myself to be a very collaborative worker and always work very hard with the group to make sure we get the best results. I don’t recognise myself as being a dictator.”

She denied Cllr Double was “parachuted in at less than 24 hours’ notice”, saying she had worked in advance with vice-chair Cllr Perry to ensure he and Cllr Double could work harmoniously together. She said all members had a briefing along those lines before the meeting, which Cllr Conway was aware of. After he told the leader he could not support Cllr Double’s chairmanship, Cllr Taylor “had no option but to take him off that particular meeting and substitute him with Peter Guest”.

Cllr Taylor also denied there was a conflict of interest with Cllr Double also sitting on the airport forum, saying that at the start of any meeting guidance would be given by the council’s monitoring officer. She did not want to comment on Cllr Conway’s comments about other Tory councillors considering their futures with the group but wanted to let him “reflect on what happened yesterday”.

Cllr Double also responded to his comments. “I don’t have Parliamentary stuff on my council laptop as I’m not allowed to. I don’t have a Parliamentary email on my laptop. His comments are totally unfounded.” She said she was asked by the leader if she was willing to be nominated for the committee chair about a month ago as she is currently vice-chair of another scrutiny committee. “It’s the leader’s gift to organise committees and it’s up to the committee whether they vote me in.”

She said she had checked to see if her chairmanship would conflict with her airport forum role. “If down the line it looks like I can’t [sit on the forum], I won’t. I’m not precious about these things. I’m here to do whatever I can for the people of Cornwall – I haven’t got any other agenda. I don’t know what Cllr Conway’s agenda is.”

With the announcement of the July 4 general election, candidates from a number of parties will be standing for election. The full list of candidates is as follows: 

North Cornwall: Scott Mann – Conservative, Robyn Harris – Labour, Ben Maguire – Liberal Democrats,  Rowland O’Connor – Reform UK,  Lance Symonds – Green Party. 

South East Cornwall: Sheryll Murray – Conservative, Anna Gelderd – Labour, Colin Martin – Liberal Democrats, Paul Wadley – Reform UK, Martin Corney – Green Party. 

St Austell and Newquay: Steve Double –Conservative, Noah Law – Labour, Joanna Kenny – Liberal Democrats, Stephen Beal – Reform UK, Amanda Pennington – Green Party. 

Truro and Falmouth: Cherilyn Mackrory – Conservative, Jayne Kirkham – Labour, Ruth Gripper – Liberal Democrats, Steven Rubidge – Reform UK, Karen La Borde – Green Party. 

Camborne and Redruth: Connor Donnithorne – Conservative, Perran Moon – Labour, Thalia Marrington – Liberal Democrats, Roger Tarrant – Reform UK, Catherine Hayes – Green Party.

St Ives: Derek Thomas – Conservative, Dr Filson Ali – Labour, Andrew George – Liberal Democrats, Giane Mortimer – Reform UK, Ian Flindall – Green Party. 

Torridge and Tavistock: Geoffrey Cox – Conservative, Isabel Angela Saxby – Labour, Phil Hutty – Liberal Democrats, Andrew Jackson – Reform UK, Judy Maciejowska – Green Party, Philip Peers – Social Democratic Party, Alan Edward Rayner – Independent.