PENDLE councillor Gary Rowland has defected from Labour to the Tories eight years after being elected.

Mr Rowland, a councillor for Marsden ward in Nelson since 1996, said he was joining the Conservatives after losing faith in Labour.

The switch means Labour have seven members on the council, and the Tories have 12.

In his resignation letter, Coun Rowland said: "For a long time now I have felt that the national party has been letting us down badly and, therefore, it is with great regret that I am resigning from the Labour Party and from the Labour Group on Pendle Council.

"I fear that we as a country are losing our identity and I also feel that this Labour government no longer knows in which direction it is going.

"The Labour government has lost its way with immigration policies, it is too easy to stay in the country if you arrive illegally, crime is spiralling out of control, but all the government wants to do is soften penalties."

He also criticised the government for encouraging people to collect benefits rather than work, and the state of the National Health Service.

He said: "This has not been an easy decision for me to take and it has been reached after much deliberation, but I feel I can no longer be a part of the Labour Party."

Coun Tony Beckett, Tory Group leader on Pendle Council, said: "We are delighted to accept Gary Rowland's application to join us. We note that he feels let down by the Labour Party and is in tune with Conservative policies. We are very pleased to have a representative from Nelson."

Labour Group leader, Coun Frank Clifford, said: "I am incrediby disappointed. If Gary had concerns he could have discussed them with colleagues and he did not. I invite him as a man of principle, conscience, and concern, to resign his seat and stand as a Conservative to see if he gets the support he received as a Labour councillor."