One of Wiltshire Conservatives' longest serving councillors Chris Humphries who represents Aldbourne and Ramsbury quit the party last night in a surprise move following his suspension for three months over controversial comments he was said to have made to a female officer.
It follows the announcement earlier this week that Marlborough East Ward councillor Peggy Dow was quitting the Lib-Dems and becoming an Independent.
Coun Humphries has been a councillor for about 40 years at parish, at the former Kennet District and at Wiltshire county level.
He has not stood down as a Wiltshire or Aldbourne parish councillor, however, but crossed the floor to join the growing Independent group.
On Monday Coun Dow joined the Independents after quitting the Liberal Democrats and both new members have been welcomed by Independents leader Coun Chris Newbury who represent Warminster.
In an exclusive statement this morning to the Gazette Coun Humphries said: “I am notifying you that I am accepting the invitation below from the Wiltshire Independent group.
“ I have today resigned from the Wiltshire Conservative group to sit as an Independent member, at Wiltshire Council.
“I hope people understand why; it will not affect my dedication to represent all the inhabitants of the Aldbourne and Ramsbury Division as I have done for the past 20 years.”
Coun Humphries was suspended by his group last week following a tribunal at which complaints made against him by former Marlborough Area Board manager Julie Densham were upheld.
Of a total of 21 allegations that he made improper comments, five were upheld as breaches of the Local Government code of conduct by the Standards Committee panel of three Wiltshire councillors.
Coun Humphries withdrew from the hearing on the advice of his lawyer Peter Keith-Lucas after they learned less than 24 hours before it started that Mrs Densham was to be represented by a barrister whose opening and closing comments could not be challenged.
Last night Coun Humphries was due to appear before the Devizes Conservative Association selection panel to see if it would re-select him for next May’s council elections but he announced he was quitting the party shortly before it started.
Coun Newbury said: “Chris Humphries has a long untarnished record of public service in Wiltshire and the Wiltshire Council Independent Group has unanimously invited him to join us.
“As soon as there has been a review of political balance we shall be in a position to offer him some committee places, and we shall also support him if he decides to stand again for election in Aldbourne and Ramsbury, where local people know him and can form their own judgement on the actions of the Standards Committee.”
Coun Dow, who has been a town councillor for 12 years and a Liberal Democrat Wiltshire councillor for five years, said this morning she was leaving the LibDems over what was happening nationally with the coalition Government.
“I cannot agree with what they are doing. I am against the coalition and I just don’t think the Liberal Democrats are doing what I joined them for 13 or 14 years ago.”
Coun Dow added: “The only people I have to answer to now are the people of Marlborough.