A Conservative councillor has accused Independent rivals of misleading voters by distributing a blue electioneering leaflet.

Shoebury councillor James Moyies is fighting the Thorpe Ward seat in May’s election in a bid to bring the Independent-dominated constituency back into the Conservative fold.

As councillors across the board appear to have started an early election battle, Mr Moyies has taken exception at a blue leaflet blasting the Conservatives’ track record which has been distributed by Independent group leader Ron Woodley.

Mr Moyies said: “Following the announcement of my candidacy for Thorpe Ward in the Southend Council elections for May 2018 the ex-leader of the council, Ron Woodley, has acted in a way not befitting an election candidate. Over the past few weeks he has produced a leaflet printed in pale blue pretending to be from the Conservatives .

“He will, of course, claim it is a parody leaflet but nevertheless could confuse many residents. I am convinced that the Burges Estate Residents’ Association would not be comfortable with this blatant political impersonation by their chairman within their area.”

Mr Moyies said he had asked the borough solicitor to examine the leaflet.

He added: “Ron Woodley should be proud of what he achieved as leader; despite being hampered by being in a rainbow coalition with Labour, Lib Dems and ex-Ukip councillors. But he is now in danger of acting in the same way as he accused the Conservatives of doing 20 years ago.”

Mr Woodley dismissed the claims as “paranoia”. He said: “It’s just a leaflet on blue paper quoting facts about what the Tories are doing to the town. There’s nothing bad about it. I have put my name on it so people are aware of who it is from. James Moyies is just being paranoid. It highlights the failings of the Conservatives and their lack of consultation skills, for instance over the Sheobury seawall which has now proved to be not necessary.

“We started delivering the leaflets six weeks ago, before we even knew James was standing in Thorpe Ward.”