The UK Independence Party’s majority in the party’s first ever controlled local authority has been reduced today following the resignation of four councillors who have been locked in a heated disputed with the council leadership for weeks.
Councillors Ash Ashbee, Konnor Collins, Beverly Martin and Helen Smith tendered their resignations earlier today and are now listed on the Thanet District Council (TDC) website as members of the Democratic Independent Group. They are claiming that they are leaving the party over “disablism” – prejudice against disabled people, though allegations are being made by the central party that the four have conducted themselves improperly, given their links to the pro-Manston Airport group.
The argument, not dissimilar to the problems faced in Tendring District Council which split into two shortly after the general election. The issues, say numerous sources, are stemmed from the fact that UKIP does not have a whipping operation as a party, and therefore allow themselves to be victims to fair-weather allies and rogue candidates who only use the party and its resources to get elected.
The four councillors declared that they had lost faith in the council’s leadership last month, citing the speed of the compulsory purchase order for the site as a reason.
Cllr Chris Wells, the UKIP leader of Thanet District Council said today: “It is with some relief that I hear today of the resignations of four members of the UKIP group at TDC. This group have been engaged as a ‘party within a party’ for some weeks and have been a disruptive and noisy influence in their endeavours.
“I thank them for their brief time as UKIP councillors and regret their decision to abandon the manifesto they were elected on in favour of personal aggrandisement and media hype. I, and UKIP utterly reject any suggestion that there was any discrimination towards Cllr Collins.”
A UKIP spokesman outright denied the allegations of discrimination, and others have cited the close work between Mr Collins and UKIP leader Nigel Farage during the campaign in Thanet as evidence against this.
The news leaves UKIP with control of the council on 29 seats, with the Conservatives on 18, Labour on 5, and Independent now 5.