TORY numbers on Ribble Valley Council have taken a hit after the shock resignation of three senior councillors from the Conservative Party.

Former council deputy leaders Cllrs Terry Hill and Paul Elms, as well as chairman of the Ribble Valley Community Safety Partnership, Cllr Robert Thompson, have quit the party and formed a new political group on the council.

A statement released by the group said: “We have no quarrel with the majority of the Conservative Group, or their policies, however we can no longer serve with the leader, Cllr Ken Hind.”

But none of the three councillors would be drawn on further reasons for their resignations.

Whalley councillor Joyce Holgate added: “I am aware of the issues but won’t say anything further at the current time. I am considering my position as are a number of other colleagues.”

The trio’s former Conservative Party colleagues are urging them to step down and trigger by-elections in their respective wards.

They say the three councillors were elected as Conservatives and no longer have a mandate.

Deputy group leader, Cllr Stephen Atkinson, said: “It is with deep regret that we have to part company with former colleagues - even more disappointing when one considers that every member of the group voted in a leadership election six weeks ago in which Paul Elms was a candidate for the leadership but lost.

“The rest of his leadership slate, which included Terry Hill and Robert Thompson who stood for other office positions in the group then withdrew their candidature following Paul’s defeat

“I feel that if they did not agree with the Conservative Party they should have resigned before the leadership election, not after.

Ribble Valley Conservative Association chairman, Cllr Ged Mirfin, added: “I call on the three rebel councillors to do the honourable, decent and gentlemanly thing and resign, step down and fight by-elections in the wards they represent.

“I would like to remind them that they were elected as Conservatives not as independents and therefore have no mandate for any platform they choose to put forward.

“This has fundamentally changed the balance on council committees without their seeking the approval of the electorate and a democratic mandate.”

“What has disappointed and angered group members more than anything else is that all three of these people were elected under the Conservative banner together with all the financial and logistical support to fight elections including all the time and effort spent in terms of leafleting and canvassing provided by fellow councillors and activists on the doorstep.”