ONE of Bolton's first UKIP councillors has quit the party to join the Conservatives.

And in a double blow for UKIP, its founding chairman has also defected to the Tories — and questioned if there is a need for her former party.

Cllr Diane Parkinson and former Bolton UKIP chairman Joan Johnson both tendered their resignations at the town hall, accompanied by Bolton West MP Chris Green and the leader of Bolton Tories, Cllr David Greenhalgh.

Both say they were motivated to leave as a result of the Prime Minister Theresa May's commitment to Brexit.

It means UKIP's standing in the borough has weakened, taking its councillors to just four.

Cllr Parkinson has represented the Hulton ward since 2014.

She and Cllr Paul Richardson were the first UKIP councillors in Bolton.

Cllr Parkinson said: "With the referendum now completed, I believe that only Theresa May and the Conservative Party can now lead us out of the EU.

"Whilst I will now sit as a Conservative councillor, I hope to still continue working with UKIP and Lib Dem councillors in standing up to this Labour council and holding its leadership to account.

"Now that the referendum is over it and we have the result we wanted, it was not that difficult a decision.

"The infrastructure the Conservatives have means I can provide a better service for my constituents."

Cllr Parkinson said UKIP was suffering from a 'lack of direction, lack of leadership and lack of infrastructure'.

She said: "Now I am going with the most established party in the country. I will be contacting every household to explain my decision and reasons."

Mrs Johnson, who has previously stood for election in UKIP added: "Whilst I am proud that UKIP helped to get the EU referendum on to the political agenda, I believe Theresa May and the Conservatives are in the best position to now take us out of the European Union.

"Now that we have voted to leave, I am also unsure as to what purpose UKIP has."

She added: "I joined UKIP essentially for the purposes of coming out of the European Union. We had the referendum which we and the British people supported to come out and because of that I’m really not sure there is a need or a direction for UKIP to carry on.

"Theresa May has promised to fulfil what the British people want and I think she as a Conservative Prime Minister has got to be able to that and make sure the support it strong enough for her to do it."

Leader of Bolton Conservatives, Cllr David Greenhalgh said: "I'm delighted to welcome Diane to the Conservative group.

"She is a fantastic local councillor for the people of Hulton and will be a welcome addition to the Bolton Conservative team.

"I'm sure she is just one of many on all sides of the political spectrum, who are taking the decision to change allegiance, having been impressed by Theresa May, her strong leadership, her clarity of direction and attention to detail."

He added: "We have a lot of evidence that a lot of UKIP supporters who were previously Conservative because of the European Union are now thoroughly impressed by Theresa May.

"Diane and Joan are very prominent members of UKIP

"The Conservative Party in Bolton is growing stronger all the time. It was a very welcome surprise, welcome news."

Bolton West MP Chris Green added: "It is fantastic news that Joan and Diane are joining the Conservative Party.

"I worked with them both whilst campaigning to leave the EU before the referendum and I know that they will make a fantastic contribution to the party."

He added: "Many people who lent their support to UKIP wanted Britain to have independence from the EU and we have had the referendum and they see that Theresa May is going to deliver that promise and the best way now to ensure a clear Brexit happens is to get behind her, support her and her plans.

"UKIP are trying to find a new direction."

The news has come as a shock to Cllr Sean Hornby, the leader of the UKIP Party in Bolton.

UKIP’S national spring party conference will be held in Bolton next month.

Mr Hornby, ward councillor for Little Lever and Darcy Lever, said: "It’s obviously a matter of some regret that Diane has chosen to desert UKIP for the Conservative Party, but if she feels more comfortable there than that’s her prerogative.

“Meanwhile UKIP, as well as having a major role nationally in holding Theresa May to account for the best Brexit deal possible, locally plays a major role in holding this Labour Council to account for of the disastrous decisions it has taken.

“UKIP throughout Bolton is coming a close second in many council seats and we believe despite the setback, at the next election we will take at least five seats in Bolton.

“We will be fighting the local parish elections for the first time. UKIP is riding high nationally and UKIP believes its role in Bolton is important, hence the UKIP national conference being held in Bolton.”