A COUNCILLOR has been suspended from her group after claiming her party leader was "courting UKIP".

Cllr Carole Swarbrick revealed at Wednesday's council meeting that she had been given an 18 month suspension by Bolton's Liberal Democrats.

The suspension comes after she claimed last month that the party's leader, Cllr Roger Hayes, had held meetings with UKIP councillors.

The former mayor had also criticised “aspiring Lib Dem spin doctors”, whose social media tactics she likened to serial killer Harold Shipman.

The Smithills ward councillor said that the social media team were trying to "ruin the reputation" of other councillors and that she wanted to "expose how the Lib Dems do business in Bolton".

Cllr Hayes, who will serve as the next mayor of Bolton, confirmed that she was now suspended from the group due to a "serious breach" of group practices.

Both he and UKIP leader Sean Hornby previously denied meeting about any subject other than the council grant awarded to Asons Solicitors.

Cllr Swarbrick says that she is "relieved" to be suspended and questioned how the people of Smithills - where all three of the Liberal Democrat councillors serve - will now be represented.

She added: "The Liberal Democrats in Bolton are in disarray. Cllr Hayes cannot be involved in politics during his mayoral year, Cllr Martin has already said he will not seek re-election and I have been suspended.

"This begs the question of who will represent the residents of Smithills and the Liberal Democrats in council meetings.

"The party is in desperate need of strong leadership, but instead we have relative newcomers who are politically inexperienced, destroying our reputation for fairness and intregrity which was developed over many years.

"A year ago, I was promised that a code of practice for the use of social media would be developed but that has never happened.

"I am relieved to be suspended as I can no longer be associated with the inappropriate use of social media as practiced and encouraged by senior members of the party."

Cllr Swarbrick remains a Liberal Democrat councillor and says she has no intention of joining another party or becoming an independent.

Cllr Hayes said: "I can confirm that Cllr Carole Swarbrick has been suspended from the Bolton Liberal Democrat Council Group because of a series of serious breaches of Group Standing Orders.

"This action was taken reluctantly, and only after a number of informal attempts to resolve the problems had failed.

"One of the claims she has made relates to secret meetings with UKIP.

"As previously reported, as Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Council I have had tri-partite meetings with the leadership of the Conservative and UKIP Groups to co-ordinate action over the grant made to Asons.

"I felt those meetings were useful, but they did not extend further than that.

"I do not feel it is helpful to comment further over a confidential matter within the Liberal Democrat Group."