STROUD District Council chairman John Hudson has resigned from the Conservative group, saying he no longer supports the party’s policies locally or nationally.

Cllr Hudson’s resignation is a further blow to the Tories who, having lost five seats to Labour in Thursday's district elections, could now find themselves in opposition.

First elected chairman in May 2007, Cllr Hudson, 46, said he felt sidelined by his party after announcing in January his intention to investigate the expenses claims of a fellow Conservative councillor.

Last week, a majority of SDC members voted to give their chairman the powers to conduct an inquiry into the case.

But Cllr Hudson, who represents Cam East, said he had not received the backing he had expected from party colleagues.

Speaking to the SNJ, he said: "I have felt a bit marginalised within the Conservative group since my announcement.

"I did not feel I got the support I had anticipated from my party.

"It is an issue which has been festering within the group for a while and I thought I could sort it out."

In an email sent to SDC chief executive David Hagg and party leaders on Monday, Cllr Hudson said it was ‘becoming more and more difficult as an individual to rest my conscience and wholeheartedly support Conservative Party policy’.

It was, he said, a ‘very difficult political decision’, adding that he would now serve as an independent member so he could vote freely on issues.

Cllr Hudson also told the SNJ he had become disillusioned with Gloucestershire County Council’s Tory administration over their plans for an incinerator at Javelin Park.

"The county are happy just to tick the box to say they have done the consultation and then ignore the public responses," he said.

At a national level, he has become unhappy with the Conservative Party leadership, criticising their NHS reforms and questioning whether they have a strategy to cope with an ageing population.

He also attacked changes to child benefit and expressed disapproval of plans to legalise gay marriage, which has been seen as one of David Cameron's flagship policies.

"I am a practising Catholic so gay marriage is one of the things I do not agree with," he said.

"I think a civil partnership addresses all the issues and I do not understand why they are pressing ahead with it."

With Cllr Hudson’s term as chairman now coming to an end, it remains to be seen whether he will be re-elected.

One of those who has been vocal in his support of Cllr Hudson and his calls for an expenses inquiry, Cllr Roger Sanders (Lab, Uplands), said he would be happy to see him stay.

"I do not agree with all of his views but I find him to be a very honest and very credible man whose integrity cannot be doubted," he said.

"I would like to see him re-elected as chairman so he can carry on with the investigation."