Eden Council’s independent group has split into two factions.
Mary Robinson, who is the district council’s deputy leader, is now part of a new Independent Alliance group along with Karen Greenwood, William Patterson, Douglas Banks and Mike Tonkin.
The new breakaway group of councillors remain part of the so-called rainbow alliance, which makes up the ruling administration including Liberal Democrat, Green and Labour district councillors.
Margaret Clark has taken on the role of leader of the remaining Independent group which includes Sandy Lancaster, David Ryland and Henry Sawrey-Cookson.
The break-up took place during an online meeting last week.
“We were quite willing to discuss matters, but Councillor Robinson refused all discussion at that Zoom meeting,” said Mrs Clark.
Mrs Robinson told the Herald she had been saddened by the need to split which had arisen because in recent months it had become clear that they were not all on the same page.
“Yes, you can disagree, but you don’t vote against your own administration when you are in the administration,” said Mrs Robinson, who added that if the councillors in question had abstained over key votes, which included ratification of the budget, matters might have been different.
She said the ruling coalition, which is fronted by Eden Council leader Virginia Taylor (Lib Dem, Penrith) had a clear vision of how it would like to see the district progress.
That is what the coalition had signed up to two years ago when the coalition was formed and that is what it want to deliver.
Shared priorities include wanting to tackle climate change, improve housing stock, and in particular helping businesses to meet the climate change targets which the Government has set, said Mrs Robinson.
“We have got £400,000 going into greening Eden’s businesses. That is a capital programme, so that will help them move forward and we have been awarded a large grant for Voreda House to make that a Passivhaus standard for council offices,” she said.
And as well as a new strategic housing and economic needs assessment, a fresh economic strategy is also due out in April or May.
Mrs Robinson added: “People appreciate the services and the amount of work and effort that the (council’s) staff have done over last 12 months with COVID.
“We have to focus on delivering services and getting them in the best state possible for the next two years, because if local government reorganisation does come off, and I think it will, Eden services have got to be fit for purpose, and we have got to support our businesses and our high streets coming back.
“We have got a budget, we know how we are going to spend it, we have got our corporate priorities, let’s just get on and do it.”
A spokesman for Eden Council confirmed the district authority had received notification that a new Independent Alliance group had been formed.
There is now a 20-strong ruling coalition, with a majority of four over the Conservatives and remaining Independents.
In addition, there are also two vacant formerly Conservative-held seats which are the subject of by-elections in May.