A HIGH-RANKING local Conservative has delivered a blistering broadside against the Tory-led borough council after quitting a senior role in the party’s association.

Clive Pinder, who stepped down as vice-chairman of Basingstoke Conservative Association earlier this month, has written an open letter to The Gazette, explaining his decision to quit.

In the letter, Mr Pinder says he is still a committed Conservative, but explains that he is unhappy with the way the leaders of the Tory-led administration are running Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

Mr Pinder, who has been a member of the association since 2007, took on the vice-chairmanship in 2010 and was responsible for membership and fundraising.

However, he found himself increasingly at odds with certain members, particularly over the Manydown land debate. He has been a key player in the pressure group SOLVE (Save Our Loddon Valley Environment), which seeks to protect the Loddon Valley from development.

The 50-year-old told The Gazette: “I believe in consensus-driven, fully engaged local democracy and I thought I could play a role in making sure people, particularly young people, became involved in that. I was also impressed with Maria Miller and her commitment to local politics.

“But over time, it appeared that more and more, it was becoming about what was best for the party over what was best for Basingstoke.

“The lightning rod for that was the Manydown issue. When we listened in the council chamber, it became clear that the Conservatives were not listening to those who were taking part in the public process.

“There is no culture of engaging or constructive debate. There is simply a culture of: ‘I am right, you are wrong and I know what is best’.

“I do not think the local Conservatives have been told to do this by the national party. This is conscious decision to run a very tight, whipped organisation where anybody who speaks out is ostracised, demoted or, at worst, suspended.”

Mr Pinder cited the cases of Conservative councillors Sven Godesen and Onnalee Cubitt – who were demoted and suspended respectively – for siding with the opposition over the Manydown land debate.

Mr Pinder still holds the position of vice-chairman of the Old Basing and Lychpit Conservative branch after being elected to the role last month.

Mark Andreae, chairman of Basingstoke Conservative Association, said Mr Pinder did not put himself forward to stand at the recent AGM.

He told The Gazette: “Clive said he was going to resign several months before because he wanted to continue working for his pressure group SOLVE, and that seems perfectly reasonable.

“We are going to discuss the Manydown situation once the elections have finished. We will have new councillors and that is the time to think about it.

“Of course, I don’t agree with him but what he thinks about everyone else is not my fault.”