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Newbury MP accused of "letting his constituents down"

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Richard Benyon under fire for not taking part in crucial council finance vote

NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has been accused of ‘letting his constituents down’ by choosing not to participate in a crucial government vote on whether to cut funding to local councils.

Mr Benyon was marked down as being ‘absent’ from the Local Government Settlement vote, which saw West Berkshire Council’s grant slashed by 44 per cent.

As a direct result of that settlement, the council has been forced to make an unprecedented £17.5m of cuts next year, which includes closing children’s centres and axing vital public services.

When previously asked by the Newbury Weekly News how he intended to vote, Mr Benyon said his constituents were “just going to have to trust me”.

But last month, at the crucial vote at the House of Commons, Mr Benyon was marked as absent.

He told the NWN that he couldn’t support the settlement because of its impact on West Berkshire so decided “simply not to vote”.

This week, he has come in for some fierce criticism and been accused of putting his Conservative colleagues ahead of the interests of the people he represents.

Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said: “He has let down his constituents.

“If he felt that strongly about what his Government was doing to West Berkshire then he should have voted against.

“The bill would have still been passed and the Tories would have still got what they wanted.

“What he could, and should, have done, was put a marker in the sand and said ‘I’m an MP for Newbury before I’m a Conservative’.

“But he didn’t because he didn’t want to embarrass the Prime Minister or his Conservative colleagues.

“He should have chosen to stand up for his community instead.

“On a personal level I get on with Richard and he’s done some really good work, particularly in Thatcham, but this time he’s got it wrong and he has to be held accountable.”

Mr Benyon said he wasn’t going to respond to Mr Dillon’s comments because he “had no intention of getting involved in a political spat”.

He did, however, say: “I would like to know what more I could possibly be doing. I am working as hard as any MP in the country.”

Explaining his decision, Mr Benyon said: “I didn’t want to vote against the national settlement because it looked quite favourably on certain areas.

“However, I simply couldn’t support it because of what is was doing to West Berkshire. Therefore I decided simply not to vote.”

Tory MPs Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire), Alok Sharma (Reading West), John Redwood (Wokingham) and Claire Perry (Devizes) all voted in favour of the Local Government Settlement.

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