A HALESOWEN councillor who released a statement encouraging people to ignore COVID-19 rules has been expelled from the Conservative Party group on Dudley Council for his "foolish outburst."

Cllr Ray Burston, of Halesowen South ward, detailed his thoughts about the "devastating effect that the Government’s CoVid19 response measures – in particular, local and national lockdowns – have had upon our economy and upon people’s jobs, livelihoods and mental health" and called for people to join him in flouting the rules.

The leader of Dudley Council councillor Patrick Harley said cllr Burston's Conservative whip had been withdrawn, adding that his "outburst is irresponsible and extremely foolish."

This means cllr Burston is now an independent, not a Tory councillor.

Cllr Harley said: "None of us, least of all myself, have welcomed some of the measures imposed upon us in order to deal with this pandemic.

"My business is hospitality. The pub business I own has been closed for six of the last 10 months.

"I have grandchildren I have hardly seen let alone hugged these last months.

"Birthday celebrations have been missed and it's been generally a miserable time for all.

"Yes, we can all have a moan about these measures and believe me I do, but the majority of the people of the borough have complied with the regulations and advice.

"Elected members are in a privileged position and should use their influence to help not hinder the fight against this pandemic.

"Argue against measures by all means, as that is the voice of democracy, but to actually encourage people to break or ignore the law is a step too far.

"Cllr Burston no longer has the Conservative whip and has been removed as chair of the overview and scrutiny board.

"Covid-19 is still very much with us so, it's incredibly important that people continue to do everything it takes to stop the spread of the virus.

"It’s vital we are all vigilant and we all play our part and we should follow the national rules to protect ourselves, our loved ones and our communities."

Withdrawing the whip means that a councillor hangs on to their seat, but no longer represents the political party.

They must sit as an independent until their party decides to restore the whip.

Cllr Burston said he had had supportive comments from "one or two councillors."

He said: "I suspect there's an undercurrent of sympathy over what I have done in the Conservative group.

"Sometimes you have to go with your conscience and do what you feel is right and pay the price.

"I'm appalled at the damage this lockdown is doing to the social and economic fabric of this country."

Cllr Burston said he will wear a mask in supermarkets - but will not abide by other rules imposed as part of the fight against coronavirus as the borough moves into Tier 4.