BATTLING Redditch Councillor Juliet Brunner has resigned the Tory whip to fight for her Arrow Valley East seat as an independent in the forthcoming county council elections.
Coun Brunner, a member of the Conservative Party for more than 25 years and vice chairman of Worcestershire County Council, said she decided to resign after her Redditch Conservative colleagues rejected out of hand her application to defend the district.
And she said being an independent left her free from the pressures of the party to fully defend the interests of the people she represented – the electorate.
“For me it’s about service and I believe I have a few more years left in my yet,” she said.
“I was put into Arrow Valley East by the people and I will damn well represent them.
“Also it gives me the freedom to support the community in their opposition to the planned cemetery on Ipsley Meadow and the housing estate at Mappleborough Woods.
“For me this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
She added that the atmosphere within Redditch Conservatives had become ‘really, really unpleasant’ and that she had not enjoyed their style of ‘punch the bruise politics’.
A further motive to go it alone is the opportunity to act as a role model for women and girls – if she successfully defends the seat she will become the first woman from Redditch to chair Worcestershire County Council.
“It was really important to me to show women and girls that they could do it too,” she said.
Coun Brunner was first elected to Redditch Borough Council in 2004 and still retains her Matchborough ward seat.
She followed this success with a county council by-election victory in 2008 to take Arrow Valley East.
She has since had a ding-dong battle with Labour for the seat, her most recent victory coming in 2017, the same year she led the Conservatives to victory in the borough elections to wrest control of Redditch Town Hall from Labour.
However the joy of that victory was short lived as an internal coup soon after saw her replaced by Coun Matt Dormer.
She went on to a highly successful year as Mayor of Redditch but then in 2020 her bid to defend her Arrow Valley East seat was rejected by her own party.
“We have a two path process for the selection of candidates in the Conservatives,” said Coun Brunner.
“First, you have to be approved, and then it’s selection for a seat.
“Well, I didn’t get past the approval panel, which left me stunned, as I had the most experience.
“It effectively meant they did not think I was a fit and proper person to stand for the Conservatives.
“I asked for feedback from the deputy chairman, political, Coun Peter Fleming, and they refused to give any.”
She added that, with a decision due on Ipsley Meadow soon after the election, now was the time to act.
“There’s a lot of anger out there, people want their voices heard.
“And yes, I suppose I will be on the naughty chair with the Conservatives, but for me this is about serving the people. They put me there and I will represent them.”