A LEADING Worcestershire councillor has been suspended from his Conservative group for six months, it has emerged.

Councillor Phil Grove, who enraged his party by voting against cuts to the fire service, has been thrown out until September.

The decision means he will have no party political affiliation at Worcestershire County Council during that period, a tactic designed to punish him for not voting with his group.

As your Worcester News revealed on Friday, Cllr Grove decided to break ranks from the Tories at Hereford and Worcester Fire Authority and back the opposition Labour Party to inject an extra £500,000 into the service.

His decision led to a crunch budget amendment being passed by 11 votes to 10, to delay a decision to make £4 million of fire service cuts until June using the cash.

He was warned before the vote to vote with his group, and stopped from entering the Conservative room at County Hall after the vote.

Cllr Grove was unavailable for comment yesterday but the Labour Party now says he is welcome to join them.

Councillor Richard Udall, from Labour, said: "There is always a home for him in the Labour Party, we'd welcome any application.

"I would dearly like to discuss this with him to see if we can test the water."

The Conservative group at County Hall met on Friday and agreed the six month suspension.

Sources say he faces permanent expulsion in the autumn unless he decides to sway the party line over the next few months.

One Tory councillor, who refused to be named, said: "At the time of the fire authority vote he was reminded that he should support the Conservatives because a lengthy process was gone through based on a lot of consultation.

"We have decided to suspend him for six months and he will still be a councillor during that time, but with no political title.

"He won't be aligned to us unless he decides at the end of that period he wants to come back."

Cllr Grove, who was first elected to County Hall last year, is also a member of Malvern Hills District Council, where he used to be the leader between 2009-2012.

It is not expected to impact upon his role there, where he is still part of Malvern Conservatives and is the district's economic development chief.