The leader of Norfolk County Council’s UKIP group has resigned, and is thought to have left the party, amid reports of a split over candidate selections.
Toby Coke, who represents the Gayton and Nar Valley ward, will sit as a non-aligned independent until the elections on May 4.
It is understood he will not be seeking re-election when his current term ends.
Mr Coke, who was elected when UKIP made significant county council gains in 2013, has so far not responded to requests for comment.
However, party officials say he informed colleagues of his decision in an email yesterday, three days after losing a vote over the selection of candidates.
East of England MEP Stuart Agnew today admitted the timing of the split was not helpful to his party’s cause.
But he also paid tribute to Mr Coke’s contribution to county affairs.
He said Mr Coke deserved particular credit for his work to form the rainbow alliance that eventually halted the Lynn incinerator project three years ago.
He said: “He was an enormous force for us and completely wrong-footed the Conservatives. They assumed that for a couple of cabinet posts they could buy the UKIP vote and he said no.
“He really led from the front. He is a very genuine man.”
County councillor Jonathon Childs said the party had achieved its main objectives of stopping the incinerator and re-introducing a committee system of governance under Mr Coke’s leadership.
He added: “He will be missed. He was a formidable foe. The opposition will be glad he’s gone.”
During his career, Mr Coke also contested two general elections for UKIP, finishing fourth in the Mid Norfolk constituency in 2010 and third in the North West Norfolk seat in 2015.