Belmont election shock #1: ‘I didn’t want to quit as councillor’

Our Sutton reporter, BERTIE WORCESTER-PARK, on a stunning admission which fuels speculation that some of the borough’s Tories were keen to find a way to get their deputy leader back on the council

In a remarkable admission made to Inside Sutton just before the polls closed on Thursday, Patrick McManus, the Conservative councillor who resigned his seat in Belmont ward, claimed that he had not wanted to quit at all.

The by-election was called by Sutton Council after McManus’s resignation at the end of August, barely four months after he had stood for and been re-elected to the council in May.

The vacancy was a conveniently early opportunity for Neil Garratt to return to Sutton Council. “Father Jack” Garratt had been Sutton Tories’ deputy leader until he lost his Beddington South ward to the LibDems in May.

Garratt was duly elected in Belmont ward this Thursday, after a sometimes acrimonious little spat of a by-election.

The last Belmont voters will have been going into the polling stations when McManus broke his near-three-month silence in a message to Inside Sutton.

What he had to say will increase suspicions and speculation that his resignation was, at least in part, organised to create a vacancy for Garratt, despite the by-election costing Sutton Council Tax-payers around £20,000 to stage.

The reluctant resigner: ex-councillor Patrick McManus

McManus told Inside Sutton: “I initially resigned for personal reasons, but later on tried to retract it.

“Yet, there was a systemic London Borough of Sutton failure which prevented me from remaining in my seat. The safeguards failed, and then the by-election was called.

“I had no intention of resigning back then in May, else I would not have stood for election.”

Experts on election law suggest that a local authority, once it receives a letter of resignation from a councillor, cannot reverse the process. McManus’s account offers no suggestion that he ever discussed his decision with his council colleagues or the leader of the Conservative group on Sutton Council, Tim Crowley.

There was some speculation about McManus’s “personal reasons” for resigning. During the by-election some LibDem activists showed the nastier side of their win-at-all-costs attitude by spreading rumour and gossip about the now ex-councillor.

It is notable that the previous ward by-election held in Sutton was in Carshalton Central, when the LibDems did their best to prevent any discussion of the reasons for the resignation of their councillor, Alan Salter.

On that occasion, by polling day, Salter had had his collar felt by Inspector Knacker for defrauding local charities of thousands of pounds while he was a serving councillor, in a case which linked through to the family of Ruth Dombey, the leader of Sutton LibDems.

There is no suggestion that McManus has been involved in anything like those criminal activities.

McManus disputed our previous report’s account of how he had been sidelined within the Tory group and lost some of his council responsibilities before he resigned.

“I was not dropped from the planning committee,” McManus wrote.

“I stepped aside voluntarily… for workload sharing reasons, since alongside the brilliant Councillor Tony Shields, I’d taken part in the highest number of committee meetings of all 54 Sutton councillors.”

McManus confirmed that he has properties in German, but he said he visits them “mainly for maintenance purposes”.

“I live in Sutton,” he wrote, and added (even before the by-election count had been concluded): “I wish my successor Neil Garratt, an incredible thinker, the very best of luck.”

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