A Burntwood councillor says he is “deeply embarrassed” about the situation surrounding funding for a failed tree planting project.
Cllr Thomas Loughbrough-Rudd has been suspended by the Conservative group at Staffordshire County Council after concerns were raised over the money.
His Nature Nuturing company was given £924 from the Climate Change Fund before his election in the Burntwood North division.
However, it has since emerged that the project did not take place – with steps now being taken for the money to be returned.
Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd told Lichfield Live that the failure of the tree planting initiative to take place despite the funding being handed over did not mean he was “a typical Tory”.
“I am deeply embarrassed and apologetic about the manner in which this has taken place, which makes me look like a bloody idiot over what is meant to be an internal issue within the Conservative party.
“I do, however, refute suggestions that I am corrupt, crooked or a typical Tory – accusations which have been plastered out across social media on various platforms.
“As one of the lowest income-earning councillors in the region it is laughable to suggest that I am part of some kind of elite that seeks to defend themselves only.
“If anything, the opposite is true as I have – with a few exceptions – been left to fight this out myself, much to the distress of my family and friends who are understandably infuriated by the comments left by people who seek to inflict pain and mockery upon me.”Cllr Thomas Loughbrough-Rudd, Staffordshire County Council
Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd is still waiting to find out if he will be reinstated by the Conservative group at the county council, with a meeting understood to be taking place next week to decide his political future.
However, he insisted he would not step down as a councillor regardless of the outcome – and would “face the music” instead.
“I will not be running away like a sheep as some people seem to want. That’s not the kind of person I am.
“No, I’ll face the music for what has happened and if, due to the judgment of my peers, I have to serve out my term as an independent councillor this is what I shall do, because I didn’t put myself forward for public office to run away in self-interest.
“I don’t deny that the road ahead will be embarrassing, humiliating and potentially destructive of my character – which is something I’ll have to learn to live with – but I’ve decided the right thing to do is to face the music, whatever the cost.”Cllr Thomas Loughbrough-Rudd, Staffordshire County Council
“I was let down by others”
Although the project did not go ahead, Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd said the money had never been used for any other purpose.
He added the failure of the initiative was due to a number of factors.
“This project was a group project, although the funds were in my name.
“I was let down by others who didn’t give the support I expected and needed.
“The trees were intended to be planted on a path at Chasewater, which the rangers and the organisers of the country park were in agreement with. I had hoped this to be part of something much bigger.
“The trees were to maintained by a group of volunteers who sought to build an orchard and would be self-funding. This did not happen and is a major factor as to why the whole thing fell through.
“The reason for the delay was also because I was moving home straight after the election and the ranger who I was in contact with seemed to not have a nine to five daily working hours, which provided a huge problem during a time when we were leaving lockdown and getting our lives back to normal.
“I have profound autism and my partner who is herself someone who suffers from mental health has seen her social anxiety increase – I feel deeply that this issue needs to be resolved so that she doesn’t have to see stuff like this ever again.”Cllr Thomas Loughbrough-Rudd, Staffordshire County Council