A HIGH-profile Malvern Hills District councillor has quit the Tory party with a scathing attack on its leadership.

Mike Soley, a Conservative councillor for Malvern Link for the past six-and-a-half years, says he is washing his hands of the party after the way leader David Hughes and deputy Paul Swinburn handled a key vote over mass housing proposals in the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP).

Councillors initially voted against the planning blueprint only to reverse their decision a month later, when a whip to support the proposals was imposed on Tory members.

Coun Soley said he had made his decision after a Conservative group meeting on Friday when he and six other members faced disciplinary sanctions for going against the party line on the SWDP or the equally-contentious issue of wheelie bins.

Although no action was taken against them, Coun Soley decided enough was enough.

“I personally will never go to another Conservative group meeting and I am now in my eyes an independent,”

he said. “I cannot stay with a leader and deputy that have done this.

“It is not a decision I have taken lightly but morally I had no other choice.”

Coun Hughes was away on holiday this week but when the Gazette contacted Coun Swinburn he said he was not aware of Coun Soley’s decision.

But he said: “Councillors can choose to join groups or not, it is up to them. When we decided to impose a whip it was a group decision, not a leadership decision.”