Independent Ruth O’Keeffe came under fire after a bid to oust the Leader of Lewes District Council was defeated on Wednesday.
Liberal Democrats accused her of “propping up the Tories” after a vote which kept Conservative Leader Cllr Rob Blackman in place.
The Lib Dems had sought to have him removed at the Extraordinary Meeting and replaced with their leader, Cllr Sarah Osborne.
All 19 Lib Dems on the council supported the motion, but the votes of Cllr O’Keeffe and Ukip’s Cllr Donna Edmunds and Cllr Philip Howson proved decisive, swinging things in favour of the Tories with 21 votes. Independent Cllr Sam Adenaji abstained.
Cllr O’Keeffe, who was later elected as vice-chair of the council, was accused of preventing the return of a Lib Dem-controlled council and of derailing a pledge to reopen the thorny question of ‘special expenses’.
Cllr Ian Eiloart, a fellow councillor in Lewes Priory ward, said: “I think Ruth has let down Lewes very badly, by propping up the Tories. It was certainly noticeable that immediately after she had voted to keep the sinking Tory council afloat, they rewarded her by making her vice-chair.
“I think people in our ward would prefer her to vote to help get rid of the hated special expenses. But the message seems clear: a vote for Ruth is a vote for the Tories.”
Cllr O’Keeffe said that with many key decisions to be made in the coming months now was the time for disputes over the council leadership to stop.
“The two main political groups need to co-operate for the good of local residents rather than arguing,” she said.
In a reference to former council Leader Cllr James Page, who defected from the Conservatives to the Lib Dems, she added: “If the leader of one group can change sides and be welcomed by the other group how can there be that much difference between them?”