A FORMER Tory council group leader has defected to a rival party.

Cllr Andrew Newhouse, the Cliviger with Worsthorne representative on Burnley Council, quit the Tories after he was deselected to fight his ward at the next local elections.

He has now joined the Burnley and Padiham Independent Party.

His defection is the latest consequence of the upheaval which saw the coalition running the council collapse and Labour retake control of the borough as a minority administration on Wednesday night.

Cllr Newhouse, who became Conservative group leader in May 2018, was suspended in May last year and replaced as party boss by former Brexit Party and UKIP member Cllr Alan Hosker.

Now following the row over the Tory group seeking to replace its former executive members Ivor Emo and Cosima Towneley which led to the break up of their coalition with the Liberal Democrats and the Burnley and Padiham Independents and his deselection, Cllr Newhouse has changed parties.

Cllr Hosker said: "I am disappointed because I got on well with Andrew but I wish him all the best with his new party choice."

A Burnley Conservative Association statement said: "Andrew was unfortunately suspended from the Council Group on allegations of bullying earlier this year and was reprimanded by the local party. We knew he wasn't happy.

"He has since failed to be re-selected for his council seat in next May's election and as such it appears he has felt it necessary to leave.

"We have two great Councillors in Ivor Emo and Cosima Towneley representing the residents of Cliviger and Worsthorne."

Cllr Newhouse said: "I reject any allegations of bullying. The complaints against me were completely spurious.

"I was replaced as leader when I was suspended.

"After I was deselected as candidate for my ward at the next local elections, I had no choice but to change parties as I wanted to represent the people of Cliviger with Worsthorne.

"I have fallen out of sympathy with the Burnley Conservative party and group.

"It is no longer the association I built and was a member of."

Cllr Mark Payne, leader of the Burnley and Padiham Independent Party, said: "I am delighted.

"Andrew is a good hard working councillor and a good addition to our party.

"I think he can hold Cliviger with Worsthorne for us at the next election."

Cllr Newhouse’s defection takes his new party up to six councillors and reduces the Tory group to six.