County councillor Phil Read - a critic of bedroom tax and HS2 rail link and who quit Tory group on East Cambs- dies after lengthy illness

Phil Read

Phil Read - Credit: Archant

A Conservative county councillor – who quit the Tory group on East Cambs District Council over selection issues and disenchantment with the party nationally over the bedroom tax and HS2 – has died.

Cllr Phil Read – who represented Sutton (a ward that includes Coveney, Downham, Mepal and Witcham) –had been a county councillor for 40 years. He died after a long illness.

Cllr Read, who was a farmer, was first elected to Cambridgeshire County Council in 1975.

He joined Sutton Parish Council in 1973 and was chairman from 1975 to 1977. He also joined East Cambridgeshire District Council in 1973 and served on the planning, environmental health, housing and finance and policy committees.

Cllr Read, who was born in 1942, attended Sutton Village Primary School before going to King’s School Ely and then onto the University of Leeds.

County council leader Steve Count said: “Philip will be sadly missed by us all.

“He gave decades of public service to the community where he grew up and lived in and he always made it clear that Sutton and East Cambridgeshire was at the heart of what he did.

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“He will be well remembered for his work over the years, including his valuable contributions as chairman of our planning committee. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Plans will now be put in place for a by-election for the Sutton Division.

Cllr Read was for many years a Conservative councillor on East Cambs District Council but resigned from the party in 2014 citing “an accumulation of disquiet and conflict”. The issue was brought to a head by the group’s selection process for a Sutton by-election.

Cllr Read said that a number of issues had persuaded him to resign from the Conservative group and become an independent councillor.

The decision by Cllr Read came weeks after the former leader of the Conservative group on East Cambs Council, Peter Moakes, resigned over what he called “disquiet” surrounding proposals to reorganise the authority.

The resignation of Mr Moakes sparked a by-election for the second seat in Sutton and Cllr Read said that the process to select a Conservative candidate to fight the election was a source of concern.

He said: “I was very upset with the selection process – as I was last time around – so I decided to resign from the group.”

Cllr Read, who had been a member of East Cambs Council on and off since 1973, said: “I’m very upset with what is going on at East Cambs because I don’t like all this business about making people redundant.

“I think it could have been avoided if we had raised rates a little bit and charged for parking. I think it also could have been avoided if we had done things along the lines that I’m told Gareth Wilson suggested at full council, although I wasn’t there.

“I have been an independent candidate before and I have no worries about doing it again.”

Cllr Read said he was also upset about national party issues including the so-called bedroom tax and the HS2 high speed rail project.

He added: “A lot of the older Conservative councillors who have been on the council for a long time have had to go through this new system where you have to go before a selection panel before you can stand.

“It has been introduced by the party central office and I don’t agree with it.”

Recently the county council had voted for a continuing leave of absence for Cllr Read who had been an infrequent attendee at meetings. Ill health had meant his last attendance at a full council meeting was on July 21 this year. Previously he had not attended any council or committee meeting since March, 2014.