A COUNCILLOR who walked out on the Tories in protest over the way key decisions were being handled has signed up with the UK Independence Party (UKIP).

Coun Mike Soley, who represents Malvern Link, becomes UKIP’s first ever representative on Malvern Hills District Council.

He quit the Conservative party after six-and-a-half years last month, attacking council leader David Hughes and his deputy Paul Swinburn over their handling of a key vote on mass housing proposals contained in the South Worcestershire Development Plan (SWDP).

Councillors initially voted against the planning blueprint only to reverse their decision a month later, when a whip to support the proposals was imposed on Tory members.

Coun Soley said he had since held meetings with UKIP and decided that they shared the “same principles and objectives” and that joining the party gave him “the best opportunity to make a difference”.

“I stood for district councillor to represent the residents of both Malvern Link and the Malvern Hills area in general, not to be forced to vote along party lines on issues which I, and many others, know to be against the wishes of the majority of residents,” he said.

“I do not wish to burden everyone with the additional expense of a by-election, I do not intend to stand down at this time but will stand for UKIP in future elections.”

When Coun Soley left the Tories, Coun Swinburn told the Gazette that it had been “a group decision, not a leadership decision” to impose a whip on the SWDP vote.

UKIP’s first representation on the council is the latest in a string of political shifts at Malvern Hills over the last few months.

Long-serving Lib Dem councillor Clive Smith jumped ship to the Green Party in November. Then in January the Greens called time on their long-running pact with Lib Dem and independent councillors.

Coun Julian Roskams has just been named the new leader of the Green party.