THE leader of a political party has said he has been 'knifed in the back' after four councillors split from his group.

Cllr Gordon Birtwistle, leader of the Liberal Democrats on Burnley Council, said he was 'disappointed' when fellow councillors Neil Mottershead, Mark Payne, Charles Briggs and Christine White decided to leave the group to form an independent party.

Cllr Payne, leader of the newly formed 'Burnley and Padiham Independent Party' said he did not agree with where the party was heading on a national level.

A statement released by the new party said the Lib Dems 'were not supporting areas such as Burnley' and were 'not aiding a smooth transition of Brexit'.

Cllr Birtwistle, who represents Coal Clough with Deerplay, said he believed there was a underlying personal issue for the councillors departure.

He said: "During my time as MP I brought in £50million of investment into the borough.

"Look at Trafalgar Street, look at all the government investment and jobs, how is this not supporting the area?

"These councillors know the Lib Dem position on Brexit, which has been the same for three or four years.

"If they felt so strongly against it, why did they use party money, party facilities and party money to stand as councillors when they felt like leaving?

"I feel as I have been knifed in the back, I'm disappointed.

"As much as I disagree with Labour, at least they show loyalty to each other and do not stab each other in the back."

Cllr Mottershead, Cllr Payne, and Cllr Briggs all represent Gannow on the council and Cllr White represents Rosehill with Burnley Wood.

Cllr Payne said the new party would concentrate on getting the best for people in Burnley and Padiham.

He said: "We believe as a group have become disenchanted with the party.

"It seems like the party only concentrates on metropolitan areas, like London, where it can win votes.

"We came third in the general election this year, we lost lots of votes.

"I have never hid my views over Brexit, I have always been open with them right from the interview panel I had when I first stood as a councillor.

"This has nothing to do with any personal issues or with anyone on the council and it has nothing to do with Gordon."

Cllr Jeff Sumner, who represents Rosehill with Burnley Wood, said despite rumours he had left, he was remaining with the Liberal Democrats.

He said: "I understand these councillors have an issue with the party on a local and national level.

"However I am concentrating on winning my seventh consecutive election next May and I am not looking any further at this moment.

"Meanwhile its business as usual for Rosehill with Burnley Wood and I will continue to do my work and represent the residents.

"What happens in the future, who knows."

Cllr Mottershead said: "I feel the north has been forgotten about and all you hear from the Lib Dems now is discussions on Brexit.

"Whether you agree with the result of the referendum or not they should be trying to work with the government towards a Brexit that causes as little damage as possible and the Lib Dem’s are now a party that can’t represent the people of Burnley.

"I will be fighting on behalf of the residents of Gannow now as I have always done, as an independent councillor."