THREE leading members of the Canvey Independent Party have left to form their own breakaway group on the town council.

The rift was prompted by a controversial decision last month to expel county and borough councillor Brian Wood from the party.

This followed rumours – which turned out to be untrue – Mr Wood and his wife, Anne, a fellow borough councillor, wanted to defect to the Conservative Party.

It was also claimed Mr Wood had been rude to other independent party councillors on Canvey Town Council.

Town council chairman Joan Liddiard then quit the party, explaining she felt it was unfair the vote to expel Mr Wood had been taken at a party meeting while he was on holiday and unable to defend himself.

Mrs Wood, a one-time deputy leader of the independents, resigned in October, claiming in a note sent to other councillors she was frustrated with Dave Blackwell’s leadership of the party.

The three say they now plan to continue as councillors, sitting and vote as the Canvey Independent Group.

Mr Wood said: “We didn’t apply to join the Conservatives and it wasn’t fair of Mr Blackwell and his clique to hold the hearing while I was on holiday.

“It’s true my wife and I have felt for some time the party is poorly led. It doesn’t have any coherent policies and all it does is say ‘no’ to anything the Conservatives put forward.”

Mrs Liddiard added: “I don’t have a problem with the party, but I left because I thought Brian was unfairly treated.”

Mr Blackwell insisted the decision to expel Mr Wood had nothing to do with a rumoured flirtation with the Tories.

He said: “It was because he has been disrespectful to other members and dismissive towards the town council. I did not put forward the motion. It came from other councillors.”

Mr Blackwell said had not realised Mr Woods was on holiday when he organised the emergency meeting.

He added: “Brian and Anne have always wanted to take over our party. Now they can be leaders of their own.”

The Conservative Party has confirmed it received no membership application from the couple.