Tory association to pay for claims

NORTH Somerset Conservative Association will be forced to pay hundreds-of-pounds to two of its members after allegations were made against them.

The group has been embroiled in a dispute since accusations were made against its former president Carl Francis-Pester and former chairman Christopher Allcock.

Many association members believe there is an ulterior motive behind the claims and, at the association AGM held in Nailsea on Friday, a large majority voted for four motions in support of the men.

These included paying them all out-of-pocket expenses they have incurred as a result of the dispute, which could run into hundreds-of-pounds.

The allegations concerned the use of space at the association’s office by Councillor Francis-Pester, a Clevedon town councillor and North Somerset councillor, and the purchase of a minibus.

Earlier this month, a Conservative party disciplinary committee, headed by Lord Gold, concluded the two men had ran the association in an inappropriate way.

However, the motions agreed on Friday also included sending a delegation to London to ask for Lord Gold’s decision to be reversed, offering Cllr Francis-Pester retrospective use of an office for free for a year and the association offering apologies to the men.

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Since the dispute began among Conservative members in North Somerset, it is understood some party branches, including the Portishead coast and central wards, have cancelled all fund-raising events and that the Redcliffe Bay branch in Portishead has completely disbanded.

It is also understood that an independent Conservative association could be formed and that some Conservative members are planning to leave the party.

At Friday’s AGM a new association chairman was due to be elected. However, Nailsea town councillor Mary Ponsonby withdrew her name, resulting in no chairman being elected. This means the association remains in supported status, under the control of the central Conservative party office, as it has been since the dispute began.

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