TORIES have regained control of Castle Point Council after an independent councillor defected.

Stephen Cole, Canvey Island Independent Party councillor for Winter Gardens, said his party’s recent alliance with Ukip made him leave.

His move means the Conservatives on the council are no longer a minority administration.

Mr Cole said: “I made this decision after much soul searching, but the announcement of the Canvey Independent Party leadership to align themselves with Ukip makes my position within the party untenable.

“I am not prepared to sacrifice my principles to support a party with the divisive ideology of Ukip.

“I consider myself a representative of Winter Gardens residents first and foremost and the speed of the announcement did not allow me to seek their approval before the merger with Ukip took place.”

Last month, the Echo reported the groups had come to an agreement.

Castle Point Ukip would support the Independent Party ahead of the council by-election for Canvey East on October 30, while the Independents are backing Ukip’s Jamie Huntman in next May’s general election.

The move comes as a blow to the Independent Party, who lost a seat at the Canvey East by-election last week when independent candidate Colin Letchford was voted in.

Mr Cole said: “The Ukip alliance was the straw that broke the camel’s back and there have been other issues.

“I’ve not felt comfortable with the Independent Party for a number of months.”

Leader of Castle Point Council, Colin Riley, said: “Steve will be a great addition to the Conservative group.”

With 21 members, the Conservatives are back in control and will be able to carry their policies even if the 14 Independent members join forces with the five Ukip members and independent councillor Colin Letchford.

THE leader of the Canvey Island Independent Party has called for Mr Cole to stand down as a councillor and hold a by-election.

Dave Blackwell said: “He is a good councillor, but he got in on an independent ticket, not a Conservative one. The best thing to do if he’s honest and sincere is to stand down and have another by-election.

“We are all here to do the best for our community, but the people out there voted him in as an independent and I think people will be fuming he has crossed to the Tories.

“People didn’t vote him in, they voted the party in. It is unfortunate we have lost a good councillor, but I hope he does the right thing.

“The Conservatives only have the majority by one member, so I think they will still struggle to get their policies through.”

Ukip’s parliamentary candidate, Jamie Huntman, agreed a by-election should be called.

He said: “Stephen should let the people decide. They voted him in as an independent. When I spoke to Stephen, he said Nigel Farage was fabulous. Why would he think Farage was fabulous and then say he is leaving because of Ukip?”

Mr Cole said: “Mr Huntman asked me what I thought of Nigel Farage and I said he is on the radio and sounds really good. Anyone can talk a good game, but his actions are totally a different thing. One of the main reasons I left the party was because of this Ukip alliance.”