Councillor Jack Oatley, who serves on the town and Wiltshire councils has joined the Conservative Party after being elected as an independent councillor as part of the Together for Melksham group in 2021.
Councillor Oatley, who represents Melksham Forest ward on both councils has defended his decision to join the Conservatives and stated he believes there is no need for a by-election to be called.
Speaking to Melksham News, cllr Oatley said, “I have taken a very considered decision to become a Conservative councillor because after two years of sitting as an independent councillor I was becoming frustrated by a lack of progress in getting action for my residents and a lack of confidence in the Together for Melksham grouping under whose banner I was elected.
“I feel my views align with my Conservative colleagues in Melksham and I feel I can get more done for my residents as a member of the ruling group on Wiltshire Council. I am still the voice of Melksham Forest. I am just doing it now with a bigger group, a bigger party behind me who will champion me. I will continue to champion my residents as a Conservative member.”
When questioned whether a by-election should be called for Melksham Forest, cllr Oatley responded, “Absolutely not. There is a long history of local councillors from Melksham changing their political allegiance whilst continuing to represent their residents without by-elections and my move to the Conservative Party is just another example of this. I can see no justification on spending taxpayers’ money on an unnecessary by-election.”
Speaking about Cllr Oatley’s decision, one resident of Melksham Forest said, “I am extremely disappointed to learn that councillor Oatley has changed from an independent councillor to a member of the Conservative Party. When he was voted into council in 2021 it was under the premise that he was an Independent and representing the views of Melksham Forest, with no wider political agenda from a party.
“I would like to know why this has now changed and whether there will be a by-election to ensure that we as the Forest community are happy with this change. I do wonder why this change has come and whether councillor Oatley still has our best interests at heart or whether the needs of the Conservative Party will be more important, or even the councillor’s personal progression.
“I am saddened to see someone put this change, and potentially career and financial backing, ahead of the care and needs of his residents.”
Speaking about his personal ambitions cllr Oatley said, “I am very fortunate that I was elected as a Wiltshire councillor at a young age. I would like to be a portfolio holder, maybe a cabinet member, and the only way I can do that, selfishly, is by joining a main group that have a hold of the council. I want to grow within Wiltshire Council and deliver the services which need to be delivered for the residents of Melksham Forest. I am still Jack Oatley. I am just now a Conservative.”
Welcoming cllr Oatley’s decision, cllr Richard Clewer, leader of the Conservatives on Wiltshire Council said, “I welcome councillor Jack Oatley to the Conservative Group of Wiltshire Council. I have discussed his reasons for crossing the floor with Jack and he has made it clear to me that he has carefully considered his move and is doing so in the best interest of his electorate. He also wants to support a Conservative administration which is managing the council budget so successfully.”