A COUNCILLOR who dropped Labour and declared herself an independent has been branded a "dead loss" by her former boss.

Basildon Labour group leader Nigel Smith is furious with Jane Dyer, the incumbent councillor for Vange, who told her party she was stepping down, but not that she intended standing again as an independent.

She hit back, saying she has done a lot of work at grass roots level.

Mrs Dyer is still listed as the Labour member for the seat on Basildon Council's website, but the party has selected Santa Bennett to replace her as its candidate for the ward.

Mr Smith said: "She has been a dead loss as a councillor and has not spoken at a council meeting in the four years since being elected.

"She has refused to put her contact number for constituents on the council website. She has no record of service to the people of Vange."

Mr Smith said it was "a great surprise" when it emerged Mrs Dyer was standing as an independent.

Mrs Dyer said: "My impact has been in the ward that I represent. I was elected to serve the community that I represent and that is what I have done."

She said while she may not have taken part in a great deal of formal council business, she had made a lot of difference at grass roots level.

For example, she said she had worked with the police, Circle Anglia Housing Association and Barstable School to reduce the level of graffiti, vandalism and drug-taking in nearby Ivy Path.

Mrs Dyer added she had also ensured several residents were either moved from poor council housing, or their properties were suitably renovated.

She said: "I have also given my time serving on the Circle Anglia Housing board and have thousands of e-mails where local people have asked me for help.

"I was ill throughout 2006 and the early part of 2007, which limited the number of meetings I could attend, but I always looked out for the people I represent. I decided I could serve them better outside the constraints of party politics."

There will be seven candidates vying for the Vange seat including another independent David Aitken.

Council leader Malcolm Buckley is confident the move has opened the door for Tory Luke McKenzie.

He said: "With the sitting councillor an independent, she is unlikely to hold the seat and the new Labour candidate is an unknown entity.

" Luke has been campaigning hard in the area, so we should have a good chance of winning."

Last May, Labour councillor Swatantra Nandanwar clung on to her Vange seat, but only had 54 more votes than Mr McKenzie.