A COUNCILLOR has defected from UKIP to join the Brexit Party.

Cllr Mark Cunningham has followed in Nigel Farage's footsteps by joining the political leader's newly-formed party. He becomes Bolton's first Brexit Party councillor and one of the first in Greater Manchester.

The Kearsley councillor also told The Bolton News that he has put himself forward to become the Brexit Party candidate in Bolton South East at the next general election.

He said: “I’ve been unhappy with the direction of travel for some time. There have been many issues, changes in personnel both leaders and members of the NEC. We’ve had a very controversial party in many ways and I don’t think it’s particularly helpful in delivering my ultimate goal which was to get a clean, true Brexit which was what the people of Bolton overwhelmingly voted for.

“I believe that UKIP has lost it’s way and will struggle to elect any MPs and possibly any further councillors. I see my clear way to achieving my original goal of Brexit, representing my country, my hometown of Kearsley and the wider Bolton community as my priorities and I believe that standing as a prospective parliamentary candidate for the Brexit Party will allow me the potential to fulfil these.”

UKIP is now down to two councillors, with the total number of parties in the council chambers reaching seven.

Group's leader Sean Hornby said he was sorry to see Cllr Cunningham go, but also raised concerns about the party in recent years.

He said: “UKIP need to wake up and get back to basics. I made no bones about it in the election campaign."

Cllr Cunningham was elected in Kearsley as the UKIP candidate a month before the EU referendum in 2016.

His seat is up for re-election in May 2020.