UKIP councillors who formed their own splinter group claim they were told to close it down or face being booted out of the party.

The Wickford Ukip group was formed in July when three borough councillors split from the main Basildon Ukip party.

But councillors Peter Holliman, David Harrison and Alan Ball have now formed a new party, Wickford Independents, after they were suspended from Ukip.

Mr Holliman, who will lead the group, claims political in-fighting was responsible for their decision.

He said: “The catalyst was the last three council meetings. It has been uncomfortable.

“Residents of the borough must have read about it and thought, ‘what the hell is going on?’”

Basildon Ukip leader Linda Allport-Hodge tried to suspend Mr Harrison from the party in October after he voted against party proposals last month, claiming he was “clearly not Ukip."

The trio claim they were given an ultimatum by a party secretary to either rejoin Basildon Ukip or resign from the party.

Mr Holliman added: “Recent events at several meetings have shown us the problems that party politics can bring to the table.

“As a consequence we would like to distance ourselves from that.

“We consider our main priority is to the people who voted for us. Party politics come second.”