THE chairman of Rochford District Council has made a shock switch to the Conservatives, from the Liberal Democrats.

June Lumley, chairman for the 2014-15 year, has made the switch with immediate effect, with the aim of helping the Tories fight Ukip.

Mrs Lumley has been the Lib Dem ward councillor for Grange since 2002 and is up for re-election in May.

In explaining her decision she said: "Although I have been a Liberal Democrat for a number of years, I have seen us working with the Conservatives in coalition for nearly five years and I now believe that the Conservative Party offers the best way forward for people, both locally and at the national level as well.

"In particular, I want to work with our local MP Mark Francois and his fellow councillors to help resist UKIP, who I think are narrow-minded and do not offer any realistic solutions to problems beyond a bunch of cheap sound bites.

"No Liberal I know wants to see UKIP prosper and I hope that others will reflect on my decision and perhaps take a lead from it."

Mr Francois, MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, welcomed Mrs Lumley's switch.

He said: ""I have known June Lumley for quite a few years, both via a number of local charities we both support, and also due to her council work, including all of her hard work this year as a successful chairman of the district council.

"June is dedicated to her constituents in Grange ward and we are delighted to welcome her into the Conservative Party, where she will be a very valuable addition to our ranks.

"Ukip have been in-fighting like ferrets in a sack across south Essex recently and I am very grateful to have June Lumley's future support in highlighting their weaknesses to the electorate."