THE UK Independence Party (UKIP) has gained its first ever seat on Stratford District Council.
It comes after former Conservative councillor Peter Oakley, who represents the Tanworth-in-Arden ward, switched allegiance this week.
Explaining the move, Coun Oakley said he had found it increasingly difficult to reconcile the needs of his constituents while being forced to toe the party line.
And the lifelong Tory said he wanted to ensure Stratford was protected against developers but the coalition Government’s ‘destruction of planning laws’ had turned the district into a planning nightmare where developers had the whip hand.
He also accused the Conservative-led council of ‘political manoeuvring’ and said they had parachuted outside candidates to wards where they neither lived nor worked.
Coun Oakley told The Observer: “Increasingly, the people of the district and county need a fresh alternative voice with some possibility of building coherent and sensible policies,”
“I want to represent the views of the silent majority. Close to 70 per cent of people in the district do not live in Stratford town or a large market town.
“But this majority from the small villages and hamlets, the green belt and areas of outstanding natural beauty will bear the brunt of much development with little say.”
Coun Oakley’s move follows that of Conservative MPs Douglas Carswell and Mark Reckless who recently helped UKIP secure their first seats in Parliament following by-election in Clacton and Rochester respectively.
And UKIP Stratford branch chairman Edward Fila, who will be standing in Stratford at the next election, admitted he was delighted Coun Oakley had made the move.
He said: “Peter believes he can better represent his constituents working with UKIP where there is no party whip.
“He brings extensive experience both in local government and as member of a number of committees within Stratford District Council.
“This experience will not only enhance our ability to offer constituents a strong and stable option to the parties in local government but also open the door to UKIP being represented within the authority.”
Speaking about Coun Oakley’s switch, Stratford District Council’s Conservative leader Chris Saint said: “It is a sad day when members resign from a party to which they have been loyal so I am sorry to lose Coun Oakley.
“It was nice being a UKIP-free zone however Coun Oakley was not elected as a UKIP councillor so he is masquerading in such a role.
“No doubt those Conservatives who elected him will feel aggrieved.”