ONE of the founding members of the hyper-local independent party which caused a “political earthquake” at Bolton Council by winning five seats over 14 months has now quit the group.

Cllr Paul Heslop has left Farnworth and Kearsley First less than a year after he was elected with a thumping majority of 1,847 in Kearsley.

He said: "Over the past four months or so, I have been often been at odds with senior members of the Farnworth & Kearsley First Party. I have been really struggling with the direction in which the party appears to have been heading and particularly its position as an opposition party at the council. My decision to leave the party was taken after a series of very recent decisions within the party that I felt were incompatible with the aims of the party.

"I am one of those people that believes that if you resign from your party then you should resign your seat and give the electorate the democratic opportunity to elect the person or party that they feel is best suited to represent their area. However, I genuinely feel that the people of Kearsley and Farnworth elected me in great part because of my individual pursuit of fairness for our towns. In the coming days – following discussions – I will reflect on this issue and make my intentions known to the residents of Kearsley and Farnworth."

Now an independent representative for the area, Cllr Heslop helped set up the party which was formally recognised by the electoral commission in 2017 just months before winning its first seat at Bolton Council.

The group’s leader, Cllr Paul Sanders, confirmed the resignation. He said: "The whole party is upset by his decision but fully respects it. Paul is a founding member of the party and we will forever be grateful to him for beginning this pioneering political movement to better our two towns of Kearsley and Farnworth. Farnworth and Kearsley First Party will continue to work hard to this end. We want to wish Paul well in all that he goes on to do."