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Conservatives sack councillor for joining UKIP
8:00am Thursday 6th March 2008 in News
A CONTRO-VERSIAL councillor has been sacked by the Conservative group after it was revealed that he was also a member of the UK Independence Party.
Coun Dr Owen Lister, pictured, a Conservative councillor since 2000, caused uproar in 2006 when he suggested: It would be preferable to guillotine looked-after children with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties than to provide expensive out-of-borough placements for them.' He went further to suggest it was a waste of money to provide school places to educate disabled children He was given a one-month suspension by the council's standards committee after being found guilty on two counts of bringing the authority into disrepute.
Coun Lister, a former GP, has been a member of UKIP for around a year, due to his strong views on Europe.
But the matter only became public when a letter announcing that Coun Lister had joined the party was sent to the Adver.
Deputy leader of the Conservative group, Fionuala Foley said they had no choice but to fire Dr Lister.
She said: "Membership of the Conservative Party and of UKIP is not compatible.
"I am not concerned about his absence being felt in his Abbey Meads ward, which is already very well represented by Justin Tomlinson and Peter Stoddart."
Coun Tomlinson said: "I've been working alongside Owen since 2000 and I was aware that he had announced his resignation.
"It's no surprise that he is involved with UKIP, but it is disappointing that it has been made public before the local elections in May."
UKIP Swindon chairman Steve Halden explained why Coun Lister had not announced his year-long membership of the party beforehand.
He said: "He felt that as a Conservative councillor he would have more clout to see through the projects that he was working on."
However, Coun Foley said the councillor had not been given any responsibility in the past 12 months.
She said: "Owen was well respected as a GP and, in his early days, as a councillor.
"However, in the last year I did not allocate him to any committees because I did not feel he had anything to contribute."
Coun Mike Bawden (Con, Old Town and Lawns), a former council leader, supported the group's decision.
He said: "It falls to the leadership to ensure that the rules and regulations are adhered to.
"In this case I do not think the current leadership had any alternative but to fire him."
Labour leader Kevin Small, however, said that the decision was too little too late.
He said: "I think he should have been fired when he was suspended for his adverse comments about disabled children."
Coun Lister's said the sacking "was not unexpected" and it is likely he will continue until May as as an independent councillor.