AN East Lancashire councillor has been suspended from the county council's the ruling Conservative group for voting against its budget proposals.

Rossendale West's Cllr David Stansfield said he had been unable to support its proposed 3.99 per cent increase in council tax.

The rise was agreed at a meeting of the full Lancashire County Council.

Cllr Stansfield said that 'in all conscience' he would not have been able to vote 'even for a penny increase this year'.

He said: “I believe I would have been putting some of my residents into further hardship because of the way things are at the moment.

“We have got £159m in reserves at the county council and I think some of that should have been used this year to lessen the blow of the council tax.

“I knew if I voted against the group that there would be repercussions – and I accept that, although I don’t agree with it.

“But I’m proud of what I did, because I just stood up for the residents."

Cllr Stansfield said he had never before gone against the group in his eight years on the authority but was considering whether to stand as an independent candidate in May’s county council elections.

He has not been suspended from the wider Conservative party and remains a Tory councillor for Helmshore ward on Rossendale Borough Council.

County council Conservative leader Geoff Driver said: “I am absolutely convinced that if we are to maintain the county council’s services, particularly adult social care, we needed to put it up.

“Every political party has basic rules in place – we debate issues and then once a decision is made, members are expected to go along with that.

“David decided not to do that but the consequences are that you cannot stay a member of the group.”

Three Tory county councillors – including Oswaldtwistle's Peter Britcliffe – did not register a vote at the remote meeting blaming technical difficulties.

He was previously expelled from the Conservative party in 2017 following an investigation into benefit claims, which saw him repay £3,000 and be given a £1,000 fine.  He was reinstated the following year.