THE DEPUTY leader of Solihull Council has stepped down, amid growing signs of tensions in Lib Dem ranks over the Parkgate scheme.
Councillor Tim Hodgson (Lib Dem, Shirley South), said he had resigned his position so he was free to speak out on the controversial scheme on behalf of his constituents.
His announcement comes after a total change in Shirley West - the ward that will bear the brunt of Parkgate.
Coun Simon Slater defected to Labour last month, while his colleague, Brynn Tudor has joined maverick councillor Howard Allen as “independent Lib Dems”.
In spite of growing rumours of a rift, Coun Hodgson said the future of the Lib-Lab coalition, formed earlier this year, was secure.
“I took the decision because I want to be free to speak on Parkgate,” he said.
The bone of contention is an agreement signed with the Parkgate developer Shirley Advance by the Conservatives in April when they were in power which lays down the ground rules of the application.
“Because of my position it was very difficult for me to speak on that,” said Coun Hodgson, “as this is a revised agreement which still takes away from Shirley.”
Coun Hodgson is the youngest member of Solihull Council and was just 21 when elected in May 2007.
His dad Andrew, who represents the same ward, has replaced him as deputy leader, but the younger Hodgson will continue as cabinet member for the environment.
He added: “Being in the deputy leader position, against the council would have been a risk. It could have resulted in the council being sued for millions by the developers.
“It’s not about me - it’s about the people I represent.”
Council leader Ian Hedley (Lib Dem, Shirley East) dismissed claims that the council’s hands were tied by the development agreement.
“The contract signed in April is separate altogether from the planning application that has been submitted,” he said.
The Parkgate scheme is due to go to the planning committee in mid-late November. Residents are being invited to write or email the council their views.