A COUNCILLOR who has spent more than two decades dedicated to one party has left the group in an unexpected announcement.

Horwich town councillor and former borough councillor Steven Rock has left the Liberal Democrats after a political career spanning '20 plus years' with the party.

Cllr Rock, who has served as Town Mayor of Horwich, says that the party has changed since the deaths of community stalwarts Robert and Barbara Ronson.

He said: "Since the Ronsons retired and passed away, I feel like the party has taken on a different direction. They do not seem to care about local issues as much, it's all changed. I want to look after Horwich and it's people, that is what has always mattered to me first and I will do that before anything. The party seems to be more about the politics now, it's not as inclusive anymore.

"I feel like it is time I moved away from the party."

Bolton Liberal Democrat leader Roger Hayes has branded the move a ‘disappointment’.

He said: “I think that's rubbish. I think the party is still community based and is very much still for the interests of Horwich."

The party leader says that he thinks the departure 'is a case of sour grapes', as Cllr Rock was not selected to stand for a seat on Bolton Council this year.

Cllr Hayes added: "Steve is a lovely man and I have known him for many years. I count Steve as a friend and I hope I still can. He has always been an enthusiastic member of the party.

"But we are just as much with Horwich now as Steve ever has been.

"We tried very much to keep Steve on board but it's difficult when people get in this situation. I hope at some stage he comes back to the Liberal Democrats. It is a great disappointment."

Cllr Hayes says his party is looking forward to campaigning in the upcoming council elections, saying: "People appreciate that we work very hard."

Cllr Rock is now an independent.