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Tory split over Bank of Essex

July 29, 2009 1:48 PM

money going down a drainThe ruling Conservative group at Essex County Council has dramatically split over its controversial decision to pump £50m of taxpayers' money into Santander bank. At a public meeting yesterday (28 July) some of the Tories voted to continue with a decision to extend the period of the bank's lending period, whilst part of the group voted to stop the decision.

Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes, Liberal Democrat group leader, said: "I called in this decision which will now see the period of time that businesses can access loans from Santander's windfall cash pot from Essex county taxpayers, from 2 years to up to 5 years. This is a radical change in the conditions of lending and today's meeting was called to discuss the issue.

"The Conservatives attempted to shut down the discussion without any questions being asked of the administration, so it was clear from the start that there is division in the Tory ranks as to how this project is being managed.

Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes

Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes, Lib Dem Leader on Essex County Council

"I raised questions about the increased risk to taxpayers' money, the council's relationship with Santander and the quality of research into the project which called into question the whole basis of the county council's involvement, but we were not given satisfactory answers. The Liberal Democrats are delighted that an element of the Conservative members asked pertinent questions and then voted with us in rejecting this decision. However, there were not enough Tory dissenters to stop the decision which will now be implemented."