A FORMER Mayor of Horwich has ditched his party loyalties — twice — and now defected to UKIP.

Peter McGeehan spent four years on Bolton Council, where he represented Horwich North East, and was a Horwich Town councillor for 12 years, holding both seats for the Liberal Democrats.

The 65-year-old former coach company boss and sweet shop owner was Horwich’s mayor from 2000 to 2001, but stepped down as a town councillor in 2010 because of business commitments.

But following a brief affiliation with the Horwich Labour group, which he joined in January this year, he has now opted to join Bolton’s branch of UKIP, along with his son Kieran, himself a former Horwich councillor and ex-chairman of the Horwich and Blackrod Labour branch.

The former mayor said: “I joined Labour as a show of support for my son who had joined, but we didn’t fit in there.

“The reason I joined UKIP is because of local issues.

“I feel Bolton Council’s intention is to get rid of local councils such as Horwich and Westhoughton.”

After serving on Horwich Town Council between 1998 and 2010, and Bolton Council from 1998 to 2002, he now plans to use his experience alongside his son, who has a background in marketing, to start an “academy” to train prospective UKIP councillors in Bolton.

Peter said: “In the past people have just stood willy-nilly but this would prepare them for the role.”

UKIP enjoyed massive success in local elections on May 3, winning more than 140 seats on councils across the UK and averaged 25 per cent of the vote in wards they were standing in.

Joan Johnson, chairman of UKIP’s Bolton branch, said: “I was thrilled to meet Peter and to see the enthusiasm he has for UKIP — he’s experienced and will help train our prospective councillors.”

Cllr Stephen Pickup, branch secretary of Horwich North East Labour Party, said he was disappointed by Mr McGeehan’s decision, but that he respected it.

He also described his son as “a very enthusiastic and valued member”.

Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris said claims the authority was looking to axe town councils “ridiculous”.

He added: “It’s not in our remit to close them down — that would be up to the government. And why would we want to?

“It just sounds like an excuse.”