A former chairman of UKIP 's Hartlepool branch has condemned the decision of five councillors to quit the party - and hit back at the town's MP.
Councillors John Tennant, Shane Moore, Bob Buchan, Tim Fleming and George Springer resigned from the party to form a new independent group last week, citing ‘national distraction’ at national level.
UKIP was the second largest political group on Hartlepool Borough Council, but the resignations leave Seaton councillor Tom Hind as the party's sole representative on the authority.
The resignations came on the same day North East MEP Jonathan Arnott also resigned from UKIP, saying the party had shifted its position on a number of issues which were now at "considerable variance" with his own views.
He pledged to continue to represent his constituents' views, and "continue to work for all the things I was elected to achieve".
Hartlepool MP Mike Hill predicted the former UKIP councillors would suffer at the ballot box: "Following a disastrous General Election result for them last year, in which they lost their deposit, UKIP has finally self-imploded in Hartlepool," he said.
"They have lost their credibility and that will resonate with the electorate if they continue on as Independents.
"Given Jonathon Arnott’s decision to ditch UKIP as our MEP, it’s not rocket science to conclude that John Tennant, who works for him, had to change colours.
"But for all the others bar one to follow through, that in itself speaks volumes about what is clearly a broken party."
Former UKIP chairman in the town Eric Wilson said: "As a founder member and former Chairman of UKIP. Hartlepool, I would like to express my disappointment at the actions of the five councillors who have resigned from UKIP.
"I can understand their frustration at the difficulties caused by UKIP‘s internal problems, but in that respect UKIP is no different to any other political party and those problems should not have affected their day-to-day workings as town councillors.
"I will be contacting all branch members as soon as possible and they, not Labour MP Mike Hill, will have the final say on the future of UKIP in Hartlepool."