A REBEL councillor jumping ship to the purple party’s rank will not effect the group’s position, a fellow member has said.
Robert Hardwick, who covers crown ward on East Staffordshire Borough Council, said the group’s position had not changed despite fellow rebel Nathan Birnie joining UKIP.
Councillor Birnie, who covers the weaver ward on the authority, joined the party after resigning from the Tories with Councillor Hardwick, Peter Ball and Malcolm Barrett following ‘on-going concerns’.
He was later officially axed from the party after being accused of being ‘hostile’ for voting Labour councillor Martin Blencowe as planning chairman instead of Tory candidate Greg Hall, along with Councillor Ball.
Councillor Hardwick said: “As far as we are concerned we are still in the same place, whether or not Councillor Birnie has decided to join UKIP.
“It will not make a difference.
“At the end of the day if Nathan joined UKIP then that is up to him, we have not really discussed it.
“We will have to sit down and discuss it but it does not change where we are as a group.
“Whether or not he is prepared to come back to the Conservatives if he was asked, I do not know.
“I have not had chance to talk to him about all of this yet.”
Councillor Hardwick also revealed that all four of the rebels had been approached by UKIP through an e-mail as soon as they resigned from the Conservative party asking them to join.
However, he said he will not be joining UKIP and he thinks the same will apply to the remaining members.
Councillor Hardwick has previously told the Advertiser that the rebels ‘left as a four and would only return as a four’
It was revealed last week that Councillor Birnie had joined UKIP because it ‘stands up for local people’.
The 27-year-old joined UKIP with Stretton parish councillor Brian Buxton in move which has come as another boost for the party.
UKIP has already seen four former Conservative councillors in Cannock defect to the group.
Councillor Birnie said: “I believe UKIP stands up for local people.
“I like Nigel Farage, the party’s leader.
“He is a normal person who is not frightened to say what he thinks.
“As a UKIP councillor I am just going to stand up for my local area and get things done.”
Mike Nattrass, UKIP West Midlands MEP, welcomed the news of two new recruits to the party, saying across the country the party is starting to see an increase in members.
He said: “UKIP is really on a roll not just in the West Midlands but across the country as a whole.
“We are attracting members from the Labour party, from the Tories and from the Liberal Democrats.
“UKIP is the only party that listens to local people.
“I am sure both Councillors Birnie and Buxton will be great assets to UKIP and they will continue to put the people of Burton and Uttoxeter first.”
Mike Green, chairman of the UKIP East Staffordshire branch, said: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome Councillor Birnie and Councillor Buxton to our branch.
“Both have come to UKIP because they are attracted by our common sense local and national policies.
“Following our success in the recent county council elections councillors from around the country, from across the political spectrum, are learning that UKIP really stands for local democracy which none of the other parties allow.”
Mike Ackroyd, chairman of the Conservative Association in East Staffordshire, said: “I think that it is a bit strange.
“I am very surprised by it.”