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Control of Ukip in Thanet in doubt after 12 councillors break away

The future political control of Thanet District Council is unclear after 12 UKIP councillors announced that they were to break away from the party.

The 12 say that they are to sit as independent UKIP councillors and are expected to try and force a vote on a new administration which could see some form of coalition taking over.

Councillor Rev Stuart Piper who is the UKIP councillor nominally in charge of the group said the members had decided to break away because of the dispute over the council's Local Plan.

Rev Stuart Piper UKIP
Rev Stuart Piper UKIP

That plan was recently rejected by councillors largely over the long running Manston issue.

Cllr Piper said: “People feel that they have been ignored and it really does seem that as far as Chris Wells is concerned it is business as usual and he is not going to challenge the house building numbers.

"We have felt for some time that there has been no robust challenge to the government over house building targets.”

TDC leader Chris Wells
TDC leader Chris Wells

“We feel it is time for a new administration without Chris Wells as leader. It is time for the other parties to come together to form some kind of administration.”

He said the group would see it as independent UKIP councillors and would seek to force a vote to oust Cllr Wells at a council meeting at some point in the future.

However he said that the 12 strong group would not seek to reject the authority’s budget which is due to be agreed at a meeting this week.

But council leader Chris Wells struck a defiant note, indicating he was unlikely to walk away from the top job willingly. He told Kent Online:

“There appears to be a lot of bluster and a lot of hot air and a lot of accusations as well as threats about what may happen next. Anyone who thinks this hides what the housing minister Sajid Javid has said about our housing targets does not understand the consequences of what is coming and the position we are in over our local plan.”

“I would recommend that all councillors listen very carefully to what the Secretary of State is saying about the plan.”

That was a reference to remarks by the housing minister who said there would be no "special treatment" for Thanet over its failure to adopt its Local Plan.

He later issued a statement saying:

"The Leader of any Council has a responsibility above party politics. Part of that is to ensure any proposals for the area are legally safe, and within Government guidelines. Whilst we continue to seek ways to get a local plan through, as a Council already in intervention our options are limited."

"Some seem to think that I am the block to their ambitions. They are wrong.The facts are the road block. And too many Thanet Councillors still want to hide from the facts."

Ukip won control of Thanet District Council in May 2015, picking up 33 seats and a majority on a ticket of re-opening Manston Airport.

It lost control later the same year after five defections over the airport issue, but regained it following a by-election in 2016.

In July last year it lost its majority again after another defection and has been ruling the council as a minority administration since.

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