Newly-elected Tory councillor suspended from party

Antony Baker at the Worthing Borough Council election count last Friday
Antony Baker at the Worthing Borough Council election count last Friday

A newly-elected Conservative councillor for Worthing has been suspended by the party.

The announcement was made after the Herald asked Salvington councillor Antony Baker a series of questions about official documents, which appeared to show county court judgments (CCJs) against him and also against the watersports business he founded - Baker Academy - on Worthing seafront.

They totalled more than £5,000.

In a statement, branch chairman Tom Wye said: “At a meeting of the West Worthing Conservative Association officers, held on Saturday, it was unanimously agreed that Mr Antony Baker be suspended from the Conservative Party.”

Baker Academy, of East Kiosk, Beach Parade, is part of the seafront’s Active Beach Zone - a flagship project delivered by Worthing Borough Council.

The Register of Judgments listed a total of six unpaid CCJs against Baker Academy’s ‘corporate’ and ‘trading’ name, between 2014 and April, valued between £25 and £869.

A total of nine CCJs were found after a further check in Mr Baker’s name, including three which had been paid off.

The most recent two, registered on March 21 and April 21, both appeared on checks against Baker Academy and his personal file.

​When approached for comment last week, Mr Baker said the business was taken over by another company in September and he was now working for another company full time.

A check of Companies House records on Monday (May 16) showed one director listed and that was Antony John Baker.

The business Facebook page was changed to ‘Hydro Watersports’ on Friday.

Mr Baker said: “These CCJs are all associated to Baker Academy and are all paid up from our end. From my understanding I need to pay to get them changed to ‘satisfied’ on my credit file.

“They relate to people taking packages for windsurf and kite surfing and then changing their minds after a few months into the package. As we had such a high expense for coaches and equipment we offered refunds based on hourly rates as stated before they took the package, and as we heavily discounted the main packages some people disagreed with what we offered.

“Watersports is a difficult business to manage as we are very much reliant on the weather and sometimes people get annoyed if the conditions are not what was forecasted by us. We tried very hard to satisfy everyone but with over 3,000 people visiting us its hard.

“Running the academy was a hard learning curve and as we had seven people working with us I feel I have learnt from the experience and now feel that I have a better view on the reality that small businesses go through everyday. I have set up and managed several businesses over my working life and at the same time managed family life with three great young children, which has been a struggle sometimes but it’s all been worth it.”

On Monday, when the Herald asked Mr Baker for further comment following the branch decision to suspend him, he replied by e-mail: “Thank you again for your emails, we agreed that it’s in the best interest of the Conservative party that I didn’t take my position as councillor.

“I look forward to reading your story that will no doubt cost me my job and what business my wife has left. Again thank you for your time.”