A Burntwood councillor at the centre of a storm over funding for a tree planting project that never took place has been handed a six month suspension by his own party group.
Cllr Thomas Loughgrough-Rudd had been temporarily suspended while an investigation took place over money his Nature Nuturing CIC company took prior to his election.
But the Conservatives at Staffordshire County Council say they have now handed him the maximum suspension possible – and added that this may not be the end of the matter.
“Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd has been suspended from the county council Conservative group for six months.
“This is the maximum permissible under the group rules.
“He now sits as an independent councillor.
“Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd has been ordered to repay the Climate Change monies back to the county council in full.
“The county council’s monitoring officer will review the circumstances of the case, and – if necessary – refer the matter to the police for their consideration.
“As this may now be a matter for a police investigation, no further comment will be made.”Staffordshire County Council Conservative group spokesperson
Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd has previously told Lichfield Live he would not resign from the county council if the Conservatives decided to make him stand as an independent.
“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
How the story unfolded…
A Conservative spokesperson confirmed to Lichfield Live on 18th November that Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd had been been given a preliminary suspension amid concerns over the money allocated to him prior to his election to the county council.
“The ambition with the climate change fund was to make it easy and accessible so the governance around it was light touch – however, we have discovered it was perhaps a little too light touch.
“We are now undertaking steps to rectify this.
“Some concerns were raised about money Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd applied for before he became a councillor.”Staffordshire County Council Conservative group spokesperson
Records obtained via a Freedom of Information request subsequently showed that Cllr Lougbrough-Rudd’s Nature Nuturing – although on the county council paperwork it is spelt as Nature Nurture – was awarded £924 under the scheme via former Conservative councillor Helen Fisher, now the Deputy Police, Crime and Fire Commissioner of Staffordshire.
The details of who was awarded what by the Climate Change Fund was not made publicly available on the county council website, with the Freedom of Information request used to access details over where the funding went.
It showed that a total of £76,074.60 was handed out to 121 organisations across Staffordshire.
Among the recipients was Nature Nuturing Community Interest Company, which lists Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd as a sole director. Records reveal it was incorporated on 27th July 2020.
But details on Companies House now reveal that despite setting up the company, Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd did not submit the required confirmation statement within the first 12 months as necessary.
With the statement still not submitted, an active proposal to strike off the business has now been put forward.
Staffordshire County Council confirmed on 2nd December that “measures have been put in place” for the money to be repaid after it emerged no tree planting had taken place.
Cllr Loughbrough-Rudd broke his silence on the issue over the weekend, insisting he was not “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