Five Hartlepool UKIP councillors have resigned from the party citing ‘national distraction’ and formed a new Independent Group.
Councillors John Tennant, Shane Moore, Bob Buchan, Tim Fleming and George Springer, have quit the party amid increasing negative headlines and in-fighting within the party at national level.
UKIP had become the second largest political group on Hartlepool Borough Council with six seats after a surge in support in recent years.
Following the five resignations it leaves just Seaton councillor Tom Hind on the council for UKIP.
In a joint statement, the five councillors said: “It has come to a point now that we would much rather not be distracted by national party political issues and that our decision to form a new grouping is done so from a positive position.
“We have always maintained that residents come first and that we should work to the best interests of everyone. As independent councillors working together we feel that we can achieve more than remaining with UKIP.
“This decision has not been taken lightly, many of us have given years to UKIP and we regret that we had to make this decision.”
They added they have not and will not withdraw their support for a Brexit as voted for by people in June 2016.
Coun Tennant, who was UKIP’s group leader on the council and the party’s Hartlepool chairman, added: “It has not been an easy decision but the situation over the last few months has got to the point where it has become increasingly difficult to see any possible improvement.
“With the distractions at the top of the party it’s making it harder and harder to focus on my actual job as a councillor.”
He described racist remarks reportedly made by the then girlfriend of UKIP leader Henry Bolton about Meghan Markle as “the final straw”.
The resignations came on the same day that North East MEP Jonathan Arnott also resigned from UKIP saying its position was now at odds with his own views.