CONCERNS that the Lib-Dems are becoming ‘less attuned’ to the electorate have led Newton Abbot mayor, Cllr Mike Joyce, to leave the party. 

The mayor says he will continue to serve the ‘town he loves’ as an independent but said party politics don’t belong at the local level.

Cllr Joyce first joined Newton Abbot Town Council in 2016 when he readily accepted support, advice and encouragement from the Lib-Dems.

After a good and productive start with the town council he ran again under the party banner in the 2019 local elections. However, he believed he was re-elected in 2019 on his own merits.

Cllr Joyce said: ‘Since 2019 I have become increasingly concerned that, especially at district level, the Lib-Dem councillors have become less attuned to the wishes of those who elected them.

He added: ‘This has sat upon my shoulders heavily.’ 

Concerns were raised by the mayor that after discussions with some ‘forthright’ Lib-Dem councillors, he has detected ‘enthusiasm for certain topics that have concerned me’. 

He elaborated: ‘It has become  clear  that unless you, as an individual, are prepared to agree to those party-line views 100 per cent, then you have either misjudged the situation or your views simply do not matter.’

Cllr Joyce was confident in his ability to go solo: ‘I have no doubt that I can continue to support my constituents, who include all of the town centre businesses.

‘In the work I do as a councillor on Newton Abbot Town Council and I will still be able to deal with everything that anyone may need assistance, advice  or have concerns with. If I cannot deal with whatever is asked of me by a resident or business, I usually know a person who can.

‘My passion and my willingness since becoming a town councillor is to represent my constituents in the Bushel Ward and the town, our town, that I have become so fond of, has and will not diminish one bit.

‘In fact I could say, that without the burden of concern for party politics and toeing the line, I am now free to voice opinions that I may have had to hold back for some considerable time.’

The mayor offered an assurance to the electorate that his commitment to the role had never been stronger. 

He said: ‘I assure you all, I will continue to support my council colleagues and the officers of the town council as I always have done, in all aspects, in their endeavours. 

‘I will ensure that the town of Newton Abbot continues to thrive and remain the beating heart of Teignbridge.’

The news came as a surprise to Teignbridge Council and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, Cllr Alan Connett.

He said: ‘I’m really sorry to hear that Mike has decided to leave the party and I thank him for all of his service, which as we know has been outstanding.’ 

Cllr Connett did not share mayor Joyce’s view that the party was going in the wrong direction.

He said: ‘The Lib-Dems are doing well locally and nationally. We have big challenges such as housing targets being forced on us by the Tories and coming back from coronavirus. We have been striving to work and I wish Cllr Joyce all the best.’