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SUSPENDED: Tories Gary Cooke and Paul Cooper's whip removed in council tax row

Tuesday 9th February 2021

CONSERVATIVE county councillors Gary Cooke (right) and Paul Cooper have been suspended by their party for refusing to back a 5% increase in the council tax.
Kent County Council intends setting a budget with the inflation-busting rise, which sees band C homes being hit by a £60 annual increase.
The councillors made their feelings clear in Downs Mail last week when they said: "COVID-19 has affected us all...but for some it has been devastating and, as county councillors, we are aware of the hardship caused to the families we represent.
"We'll always put the interests of our residents first and therefore at this difficult time with so many families facing hardship, we have concluded a 5% increase in KCC's rates is too much and we are unable to support it."
They represent some deprived areas in south and south-east Maidstone and must now sit as independents.
Their loss in the run up to the election will not harm the Tories as they still hold three quarters of the seats at county hall.
The suspension runs for 21 days but both men remain Conservative members and are still candidates for the election on May 6.

Cllr Cooke refused to comment. Cllr Cooper was unavailable.

Conservative county council leader Roger Gough refused to comment.