A councillor has defected from the Residents’ Association group to become an independent over the controversial proposals to charge the diabled for parking.

Councillor Christine Howells, from Nonsuch Ward, resigned from the group after disagreeing with their decision to charge blue badge holders for parking at council-run car parks and the closure of services at Cox Lane Day Centre.

Coun Howells said: “It was not an easy decision to leave the Residents Association, but was as a matter of conscience that I decided to resign.

“In respect of Blue Badge Service I believe that the ceasing of this service will disadvantage those residents who are among the most vulnerable in our society.

“With regard to the ceasing of the Cox Lane Day Service, I believe that through residents surveys it is clear that the electorate wish to extend services to the elderly, not reduce them, even in times of budgetary restraint.”

In February, Residents’ Association councillors voted in favour of scrapping free parking for blue badge holders, in a series of swingeing budget cuts, despite opposition from disabled residents and groups, councillors and the MP for Epsom and Ewell, Chris Grayling.

The Epsom Guardian has since been appealing for councillors to change their minds and reverse their decision and keep the badge free.

Conservative councillor Sean Sullivan said: “Good for her. I’m not entirely surprised that some RA councillors are disgusted at the council’s budget cuts and anyone who, along with the Conservatives, opposed the Blue Badge charges would be more than welcome in our group.”

Chairman of the Residents’ Association Councillor Robert Leach said: “I regret that Christine Howells has resigned from the Residents Association Group.

“Christine represented a particular point of view that she freely expressed at our private meetings. She was always listened to, and her comments influenced our decisions. I am disappointed that she wishes no longer to provide that influence within the council's ruling group.

“I also regret that, having made that decision, she had not resigned from the council and stood as an independent in a by-election. The residents voted for a Residents’ Association councillor. She is now denying her residents what they voted for.

“Also, a by-election would be the ideal opportunity to test how far the residents support her views. It is a pity that this opportunity has not been taken.”