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Growing calls for defecting Ukip councillors in Great Yarmouth to resign

PUBLISHED: 12:25 01 November 2017 | UPDATED: 16:18 01 November 2017

Former Ukip group leader Kay Gray and Graham Plant leader of the Conservative group and Great Yarmouth Borough Council meet after seven Ukip councillors join the Tories. Picture: Nick Butcher

Former Ukip group leader Kay Gray and Graham Plant leader of the Conservative group and Great Yarmouth Borough Council meet after seven Ukip councillors join the Tories. Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2017

Senior political figures are calling for defecting Ukip councillors to resign their seats to trigger by-elections.

The Conservatives became the majority party on Great Yarmouth council after welcoming seven UKIP councillors.
 In front the seven ex-Ukip councillors: Carl Annison, Malcolm Bird, Alan Grey, Kay Grey, Paul Hammond, Sue Hacon and Katy Stenhouse. Picture: Nick Butcher The Conservatives became the majority party on Great Yarmouth council after welcoming seven UKIP councillors. In front the seven ex-Ukip councillors: Carl Annison, Malcolm Bird, Alan Grey, Kay Grey, Paul Hammond, Sue Hacon and Katy Stenhouse. Picture: Nick Butcher

The calls come after seven of the party’s borough councillors switched allegiances to the Conservative Party in Great Yarmouth.

The move gives the ruling Tories overall control of the council – the first time for any party in five years.

After announcing their resignations the night before, it was all smiles as the new Conservative councillors posed for photos outside the town hall yesterday with their new colleagues.

MORE: MEP Stuart Agnew calls defecting Great Yarmouth Ukip councillors disgusting

But there was anger from senior figures within Ukip, including Stuart Agnew an MEP for the Eastern region who has an office in the town.

The new larger group consists of 21 Tory councillors, who met to pose for party photos to be used in campaign literature. Picture: Nick Butcher The new larger group consists of 21 Tory councillors, who met to pose for party photos to be used in campaign literature. Picture: Nick Butcher

He said he thinks the councillors should resign their seats so there is a by-election in their wards, adding: “Any honourable person would resign.”

Mr Agnew, who is the party’s agriculture spokesman called the ex-Ukip councillors “disgraceful, disgusting and disloyal” and said the Conservatives were not going to be able to deliver on Brexit.

He added: “If there’s no Ukip for people to vote for we’re going to end up with the referendum not getting honoured.”

The leader of the Labour group on the council, Trevor Wainwright, said the defections were pure opportunism.

MORE: Seven UKIP councillors defect to Conservatives on Great Yarmouth Borough Council

He added: “If they had any decency all seven would put themselves up for by election.”

Great Yarmouth was once a shining light for Ukip.

In March a senior figure in the party, Patrick O’Flynn, even called Yarmouth “a jewel in the crown” for Ukip on a visit to the town.

Their insurgency started in May 2014 when local elections were held at the same time as the European Parliamentary elections and the party won 10 of the 13 seats up for grabs in the borough.

In May 2016 the party picked up a further four seats which, following two councillors becoming independents, took their total to 12 and made them the second biggest party.

MORE: UKIP storm Yarmouth borough elections pushing Labour into third place

But their fortunes have declined since the EU referendum a month later. In this May’s county council elections the party lost all five of the borough’s eight divisions they had won just four years prior.

A spokesman in the office of Ukip leader Henry Bolton said he did not wish to comment on the defections at this time.

Not all good news for the Tories

While the Conservatives have gained control of the council in Great Yarmouth, in neighbouring North Norfolk the party has lost control.

Following a string of resignations over the past months, eight Tories have now chosen to sit as independents, which means no party is now in overall control of the district council.

MORE: Council leader under growing pressure after resignation of eight councillors

The Conservatives still run the authority with 24 seats, while the Liberal Democrats have 17 seats and the new independent group has seven.

Pressure is mounting on the leader of the council Tom FitzPatrick to resign after several councillors cited his leadership as their reason for switching sides.

Leader of the Lib Dem group, Sarah Butikofer, said she would resign if she lost the confidence of that many of her councillors.

She added: “He really needs to get a grip now. He needs to get control of his ruling group, take a look at himself and make a decision about whether he can continue in this current climate.”

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