A LONG-serving and popular Test Valley councillor has been dumped by the Tories.

Former mayor of Test Valley Neville Whiteley, who has represented the borough’s Dun Valley ward since 1999, had notified Romsey Conservative Association that he was standing for re-election in the local elections on May 7.

However, officials at the newly- formed Sombornes, Michelmersh and Lockerley Conservatives branch association asked him to attend a selection committee meeting last month and in a secret ballot he was replaced by Ian Jeffrey, the branch chairman.

Mr Whiteley received a hand- delivered letter notifying him about the meeting just 36 hours before it was held, giving him little time to respond but the letter was dated March 7 – four days prior to the meeting.

“I am disgusted at this behaviour and disappointed. It’s very shoddy and I will now be looking at whether I continue my membership of the Conservative party,” Mr Whitely told the Advertiser.

“I didn’t stand down. I wasn’t given the opportunity to continue and was replaced. They knew that I intend to stand again and I question the need for the selection committee? I wasn’t going to go before the selection committee. Had a vacancy been declared it would have been a different story. As far as I know other sitting Conservatives were not asked to submit themselves for a selection interview.

An angry Mr Whiteley said he hand delivered a letter to the branch secretary on the day of the selection meeting asking the committee to “delete his name” from the ballot paper.

The 83-year-old was chairman of the southern area planning committee for eight years and a was also member of the cabinet for a several years.

Before coming to Hampshire in 1995 he served on the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire for 23 years including a year as mayor.

Mr Whiteley, who was Test Valley mayor from May 2004 to May 2005, said he had enjoyed working with representatives from parishes in his ward which includes East Dean, East Tytherley, West Tytherley and Frenchmoor, Lockerley and Mottisfont.

“I will miss going along to the parish council meetings which are a very important part of my work. Parish councils are fundamental to local democracy,” said Mr Whiteley.

His wife, Janet, a borough councillor in the Andover Alamein ward, decided not to stand again because she wanted a council seat nearer the couple’s Stockbridge home.

However, Tory officials decided not to call her for selection.

Mrs Whiteley, the borough’s immediate past mayor, said: “I said I would like to be considered for a candidate in the mid-Test area if a vacancy arose.

“As a sitting councillor, I would have thought that I was a strong candidate. I have also been a parish councillor at Stockbridge for 13 years. It’s the principal of it all that has upset me and I think that what’s happened is disgraceful.”

Chairman of Romsey and Southampton North Conservative Association Ian Hibberd said the party had clear rules for the selection process.

“In the case of the Dun Valley which has a joint branch covering the two adjacent wards of Lockerley, Somborne and Michelmersh that was the process followed,” said Mr Hibberd.

“Councillor Neville Whiteley who was indeed a well respected and experienced councillor indicated to the branch in writing, prior to the selection meeting that he had changed his mind, and no longer wished his name to be considered.”