South Hams (SHDC) leader Julian Brazil says he was “stabbed in the back” by his Liberal Democrat colleagues after being replaced as the party’s head at Devon County Council (DCC).

In an exclusive interview with this paper, Cllr Brazil spoke about the party’s decision to select Caroline Leaver as his replacement at DCC earlier this month.

“When you’ve been stabbed in the back by your colleagues it’s an uneasy thing. You don’t feel particularly welcome, although they’re all smoothing it over as though nothing has happened,” he said.

With Cllr Leaver being selected as the lead Lib-Dem candidate in next year’s DCC elections, Mr Brazil also hinted that he might stand as an independent in May 2025.

“There comes a time when you can only be treated so badly for so long. I have so much respect for my fellow Lib-Dem councillors at South Hams that I would find it hard, but if I feel I’m being taken for granted or that we’ve lost our direction and just become a party that’s been fuelled by ambition and greed, then I’d step aside from the Lib Dems and stand as an independent,” he revealed.

The comments come shortly after he was selected as the Lib-Dem candidate for South West Devon

at the forthcoming general election, which most analysts believe will be later this year.

Despite expressing displeasure at his party colleagues, he insisted he had not changed his principles.

“I’m very to happy to stand as a Lib Dem - my values sit firmly with the Liberal Democrats. Sometimes in politics people become overly ambitious, and there’s a lot of egos, but if I felt I couldn’t work with the group I wouldn’t stand for them,” he said.

The former science teacher also spoke about SHDC’s decision to raise council tax and the much-vaunted Combined County Authority.

Last week, SHDC councillors agreed a 2.99 per cent increase in council tax, the equivalent of £5.54 a year. Cllr Brazil said it was “disappointing” to have to do it but that there was “no choice”.

He said: “We’ve been backed into a corner by the government. What disappoints us the most is that if they had introduced the double council tax on second homes we wouldn’t have had to.

“They could close the loophole on people switching to business rates, all of that would raise millions of pounds for us in Devon and the South Hams, and that would help to balance our budget without having to put up taxes on our hard pressed council tax payers.”

He also downplayed the significance of the planned creation of a Combined County Authority between Devon County and Torbay Council.

If the plan goes ahead, £16 million will be transferred to Devon and Torbay, and reputedly give more power to local authorities in matters related to housing, jobs and adult education.

While John Hart, the leader of DCC, hailed the CCA “as the future”, Cllr Brazil’s response was decidedly lukewarm, describing it as “a bit of a non event”.

He said: “It’s certainly not what people would understand by devolution. There is £16 million of new money, but of course the rider on that is if you want to spend it you have to produce a business plan for the government and then the government agrees.

“They’ve given us more control over education, but it’s still the same amount of money that’s been spent on adult education in Devon. It’s just that before they used to do it from their end and now we can sort it out ourselves. The government gives a facade of devolution, but actually they still control over it, and we as district councils have got no vote in it.”

Despite this, he expressed hope that the new administration could be “a first step” towards a model of devolved government he would embrace.

“If there is going to be genuine devolution, this Combined County Authority may be the vehicle that delivers it - and we desperately need genuine devolution. This isn’t it, but it may be a step in the right direction.”