Five West Norfolk councillors have today, Friday, December 12, announced they are joining the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Four of the new recruits, Paul Foster, Michael Langwade, Michael Pitcher and Stephanie Smeaton, are former members of the borough council’s ruling Conservative group.
They have all most recently sat as independents together with the fifth councillor to join, June Leamon.
The party will now form a group of seven, the third largest on the borough council. Its other members are the Watlington ward councillor Ashley Collins and Hunstanton representative Richard Bird, who will remain as an independent.
Mr Foster, who will be the group’s leader, said: “Our biggest challenge is to bring an end to the Conservatives’ dictatorial style of leadership on the borough council.”
Senior UKIP officials believe the group is the largest to have switched to UKIP anywhere in the country and say it is a springboard for them to take control of the borough council at next May’s elections.
Toby Coke, the party’s Norfolk County Council group leader and prospective Parliamentary candidate for North West Norfolk, said: “Today marks a big new era of change in West Norfolk.”
And East of England MEP Stuart Agnew added: “What this will do is worry every single, borough, county or district councillor who isn’t with UKIP.
“I’m quite convinced we will see more of this.”
In a statement, UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “To have so many councillors coming over to us in one go is very exciting for UKIP and for North West Norfolk.
“These individuals have realised that the old parties have forsaken the interests of the British people.
“I commend them for having the courage to stand up for their beliefs. UKIP now has all to play for in the May elections at both borough and Parliamentary level.”