A PENDLE councillor has defected to the Conservatives after being suspended by the Labour Group.

Coun Abdul Aziz, who represents the Walverden ward, in Nelson, resigned his membership of the Labour Party last week following the suspension earlier this year.

Labour Group leader Coun Mohammed Iqbal said he had been suspended because he was in ‘disrepute’ with the Labour Party, while Coun Aziz said he thought the group was being run like a ‘dictatorship’.

He said: “I woke up and saw Pendle Labour for what it is.

“They run their councillors like a dictatorship.

“You aren’t allowed an opinion, or to disagree, or you’ll be sidelined.

“This happened to me and I had the party whip removed.

“That isn’t what I was elected for.

“I stood up for what I believed in and they didn’t like it.

“I wanted the voice of the residents to be heard, and the Conservatives are the party to allow me to do that.

“I have been considering my position for some time now, and have regularly been meeting local MP Andrew Stephenson, and leader of the council Joe Cooney, over a period of months.

“Nobody is working as hard for Pendle as the two of them.

“They are the best people to take Pendle forwards, and I want to be part of that progression.”

Coun Iqbal challenged Coun Aziz to resign and fight a by-election.

He said: “Coun Aziz was suspended for an indefinite period a number of months ago for actions which had brought him into disrepute with the Labour Group.

“I would challenge him to resign and fight a by-election on his new party’s platform.

“Let the people of Walverden decide if he is worthy to represent them.”

Coun Aziz’s defection takes the size of the Conservative Group to 19, and to its highest level in 30 years.

Coun Cooney said: “The Conservative group whole-heartedly welcomes Coun Aziz, who I have got to know personally as someone who is genuine, and has the interests of his electorate at heart.

“It is clear to see there are many disaffected Labour councillors in Pendle, and we extend a hand of friendship to them if they want to be part of the progression, and improving this borough for everyone in it.”