FOUR district councillors have left Ukip and started a new political party.

The former Ukip councillors from Rochford District Council - Neil Hookway, Nick Cooper, Tina Hughes and Daniel Efde, announced their departure from the party on Wednesday morning and the creation of a new political group, Friends of Rochford.

Following the announcement, leader of the group, Neil Hookway, said the decision was made because the four councillors wanted take “national politics out of the council chamber”.

He said: “Under the banner of Friends of Rochford, our aim is to promote local residents’ issues and look to support communities in the challenging times ahead for local government.

“We believe that we can best do this by taking national politics out of the council chamber and use our new-found independence to focus on our residents’ interests.”

The change has meant that all three councillors representing Foulness and The Wakerings have switched political party.

Nick Cooper is councillor for Roche North and Rural.

The group have followed in the footsteps of 17 Thurrock councillors who in January, all left Ukip to join a new party, Thurrock Independents.

The new group will mean ten councillors in the district are independent, still under half the amount of Conservatives in Rochford, at 21.

Mr Hookway, one of the councillors for Foulness and The Wakerings expressed his excitement about the group’s change.

He added that the former Ukip members will continue working with independent groups in the council such as the Rochford District Residents on community issues.

He said: “We will continue to co-operate with councillors from other political groups, where we believe the community will benefit. We have in particular, generated good relationships with other opposition groups at Rochford District Council, and there are a range of issues where we have common aims and positions.

“We feel that this is an exciting and appropriate time to start this new venture, and we believe we have the support of the wider community in taking politics out of local government and joining the broad network of independent councillors.”