A Conservative Barnet adviser defected to the Liberal Democrats, saying the Tories had “abandoned communities like ours”.
Helene Richman, who has represented the West Hendon ward for the Conservatives since 2018, quit the group just a month before the May 5 local election.
In a recorded statement posted to Twitter on Sunday, Cllr Richman said she had dedicated her ‘heart and soul’ to improving the lives of residents, but added: ‘I watch the Conservatives allow inequality to increase and the lower standard of living. They have abandoned communities like ours.
Explaining why she chose to join the Liberal Democrats instead, Cllr Richman said: ‘The Lib Dems believe in giving voice to communities like West Hendon.
“Like me, Lib Dems believe in a fair and just society, where everyone, regardless of background, feels comfortable and supported.”
The former Tory described the Lib Dems as ‘the party of grassroots, local champions’, adding: ‘That’s what I stand for’.
During her tenure as ward councilor, Cllr Richman said she campaigned against the closure of a police base and to save a local pub, tackled fly dumps, founded a food bank and worked to the regeneration of West Hendon Broadway.
Cllr Richman’s defection brings the number of Liberal Democrats on Barnet’s Council to three. Group leader Gabriel Rozenberg is himself a former Tory, while his colleague Jess Brayne, who is not standing again in May, is a former Labour.
Cllr Rozenberg said: “I am delighted to welcome Cllr Helene Richman to the Liberal Democrats today. She is a fabulous and relentless campaigner for the residents of West Hendon. The voters of West Hendon, who they usually vote for, should give Helene a vote, so she can continue her outstanding work on behalf of all residents.
There have been some allegations regarding Cllr Richman’s conduct as a councillor, however, that the Tory claim is the real reason for her leaving the party.
In a statement posted on Twitter shortly after the defection was announced, Dan Thomas, leader of Barnet’s Conservatives, said: ‘I am absolutely delighted that Cllr Helene Richman has left the Conservative Party. She leaves under a cloud of two outstanding and serious complaints about her conduct. In my opinion, she is not suitable to be a councilor and has recently been the subject of procedures regarding her candidacy, which I believe forced her to jump before being pushed.
“In 2020 a recording of Cllr Richman making nasty remarks to residents of West Hendon came to light. She apologized after I spoke to her and I really thought she had improved her behavior. Unfortunately, recent incidents have made me change my mind. The Liberal Democrats welcoming Helene illustrate how desperate they are. I look forward to working with our new West Hendon candidates and continuing our positive campaign.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Richman said she fully disputes the leader’s claims. She said that in cases serious enough to warrant an investigation, “normally one would expect the whip to be removed”, but in her case that had not happened. “I did nothing wrong,” she added.
Responding to the comments, Sarah Wardle, the Barnet Conservative election officer for the Hendon area, said Cllr Richman had been removed from the approved list of candidates based on the complaints raised, and that was subject to appeal . To run for the Conservative Party, candidates must be on the approved list.
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This notice was published: 2022-04-07 17:15:00