Published: 10:42, 30 March 2018
| Updated: 11:24, 30 March 2018
Maidstone has a new political party to fight the forthcoming May local council elections.
All four of the existing Ukip members on the council have resigned from the party and have reformed under the banner Independent Maidstone.
Their leader, Cllr John Barned, said: "We have held discussions with the council's chief executive, Alison Broom, and she has agreed that we will be considered as a separate political grouping, and not included with the existing Independents."
The change takes effect this Sunday, and will not affect the former Ukip members' representation on council committees.
Cllr Barned said the decision had come as a result of the four's frustration with Ukip on a national level.
He said: "Ukip did a great job in forcing and then winning the referendum on Brexit, but since then with the endless leadership battles it has lost its way.
"Our interests have always been primarily with local issues: providing more social housing, tackling the town's traffic problems, increasing the provision of social care and keeping the council tax as low as possible.
"With our new party we will be able to make local decisions that are good for Maidstone without interference from any party HQ.
Two of the four were due for re-election on May 3.
Cllr Barned will fight to retain his seat in Shepway South and is hopeful of success after good early canvassing results.
Cllr Simon Ells has decided not to contest his Shepway North seat because of work pressures, though he has not ruled out standing for the group at some time in the future.
The new party has selected a candidate to replace him, a woman, and her name is expected to be released on Wednesday.
Cllr Eddie Powell, who stood as Ukip's candidate for Maidstone and the Weald at the 2015 General Election, and Cllr Gordon Newton, will continue to serve as Independent Maidstone members.
In the meantime, Cllr Barned said he would be keen to hear from any member of the public willing to stand for the new party in any other seat that's up for election in May.
He said: "Whether they voted for or against Brexit will not be a consideration. We want only to look at local issues."
Anyone interested in standing, should contact Cllr Barned by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone on 01622 851142.
But hurry! Nomination forms for potential candidates have to be submitted to Maidstone council by 4pm this coming Friday, April 6.
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