A borough's Liberal Democrats have pledged to work with its 10 former Labour councillors who quit the party this week to ensure 'a stable structure for the services provided by local government' until council elections in May.

The entire Labour group on Pendle Council resigned on Monday, accusing the national leadership of seeking to prevent them from standing in the poll, and using 'aggressive bullying tactics to suppress fairness and free speech'.

They include the authority's current leader Cllr Asjad Mahmood and its former boss Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, who was reinstated by Labour in December after a party investigation cleared him of making anti-Semitic remarks.

Now the the 10 councillors will sit as Independents along with 10 other former Labour representatives on Brierfield and Nelson Town Councils.

Lancashire Telegraph: Council leader Asjad Mahmood has quit LabourCouncil leader Asjad Mahmood has quit Labour

Pendle Lib Dem leader, Cllr David Whipp, has issued a statement confirming his group, which was in partnership with Labour to run Pendle Council, will continue to work with the newly independent councillors until May's local elections.

He said: "Liberal councillors will continue to work with newly independent colleagues to continue to implement the shared objectives set out in our agreement and continue to provide a stable structure for the services provided by local government in Pendle.

"The political administration at Pendle Council will be reviewed at the Annual Meeting of the council following elections at the beginning of May.

"I understand why councillors have resigned from an increasingly intolerant and dictatorial Labour Party. The party now has no representatives on Pendle Council and is in disarray.

Lancashire Telegraph: Cllr Mohammed Iqbal has also quit LabourCllr Mohammed Iqbal has also quit Labour

"Although we don't see eye to eye with councillors in the new independent group on every issue, we will work to ensure Pendle Council continues to run as smoothly as possible."

Labour Party HQ has dismissed the significance of the resignations, with a spokesperson saying: "The Labour Party's focus is on winning the general election so we can improve the lives of those we are elected to serve.”

It is understood several Pendle Labour councillors were re-interviewed following concerns, including allegations of antisemitism and other serious disciplinary matters being identified, provoking the mass resignation.

Cllr Ash Sutcliffe, Conservative councillor for Waterside and Horsfield in Colne, said: "As a councillor, you must focus on the local issues that you can control.

Lancashire Telegraph: Tory Cllr Ash Sutcliffe questioned the ex-Labour members' logicTory Cllr Ash Sutcliffe questioned the ex-Labour members' logic

"Whilst I understand these people may feel they are sending a message of their dissatisfaction to Keir Starmer, specifically his candidate selection and suspension processes, their residents are left wondering who is looking after them and their services.

"As a Conservative group, we aim to put the people of Pendle first. In Pendle, I am now wondering if there is a Labour Party left at all?"

The resignations are the latest crisis to hit the Labour Party in East Lancashire in recent months.

In November seven Labour members of Blackburn with Darwen Council quit the party over its stance at the time on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, and formed a new '4BwD Independent Group'.

Also in November, 11 Labour councillors, including borough leader Cllr Afrasiab Anwar, quit the party in Burnley citing the same issues over the Israel-Hamas war.

As the Burnley Independent Group they currently run the council in partnership with the Lib Dems.

Hyndburn Labour parliamentary candidate, and former MP, Graham Jones is currently suspended by the party for allegedly making anti-Israeli remarks at a meeting in an Accrington community centre, which also saw Hyndburn Labour group leader Cllr Munsif Dad 'spoken to' by party officials.

The meeting fallout also led to Labour disowning former Lancashire County Council leader Cllr Azhar Ali, who represents Nelson East on the authority, as candidate for February’s Rochdale by-election after he was accused of making a string of anti-Semitic remarks at the same gathering and suspended from the party.

Labour lost the Rochdale by-election to George Galloway.