A SENIOR Labour councillor has dramatically quit the party.

Cllr Anna-Marie Watters announced on social media she had broken ties with her party - and is continuing as an Independent councillor for Westhoughton South.

She said her decision was due to the direction the party was going in and a candidate's contract by the Local Campaign Forum (LCF), which she claimed set "unrealistic targets".

The LCF said the contract was in response to what the public feedback, and circumstances of individuals would always been taken into account.

Cllr Watters, who was the party's spokesman for "Stronger Communities", was recently the subject of a complaint after sharing a social media post by Britain First.

She said she had not heard of the far-right group and subsequently deleted the post, which called for a total ban on halal food in schools. Cllr Watters said that had no bearing on her decision to leave the party, which she announced on Sunday.

She said: "I felt like it was the right thing for me to do.

"I just do not have faith, trust or confidence in the Local Campaign Forum (LCF), it is being run by the left. They are completely out of touch with reality and people, and if you do not agree with what is perceived to be their values, life is made difficult for you."

Cllr Watters said: "I have to stress that I have never had an issue with Labour councillors, I am fully supportive of Cllr Linda Thomas and have the greatest respect for her. It is the people behind the scenes.

"I wasn't going to stand in the May election anyway. I know the election is not far off but for me it was the right thing to do now, I actually feel as if I have been set free."

Cllr Watters slammed the councillor's contract she had to sign.

She said: "Many councillors work full time, and the contract expected me to go out knocking on people's doors every other weekend and make contact with 200 people a month.

"I work 9am-5pm everyday, weekends are when I spend time with my family. This contract would have a huge impact on my family life. I was told we could make up the targets if we were away on holiday.

"At my panel interview in September as a candidate for May elections, for which I was successful, all they wanted to talk about was the contract, there was nothing about the positive contribution I had made, it was all about targets and not what we were dong for people.

Cllr Watters said that councillors by the very nature of the job meet people and give up their time ­— but she said being a councillor was different to being a canvasser.

Cllr Watters, who has been a councillor since 2012, said: "I have always been a community activist.

"I received help from David Chadwick, who was a Labour Party councillor, that is how I joined the party."

"My becoming an independent councillor is not going to make a difference to my constituents, it does not matter that there is no brand there. I will still work on behalf of the residents."

Cllr Watters said: "I will still continue to work within the community even when I am not a councillor.

"I am very proud of what I have helped to achieve such as The Hub, which has gone strength to strength, free school breakfasts."

Chair of the LCF, Andrea Egan said: "The contract is actually to bring us line with other neighbouring authorities.

"If candidates or councillors have responsibilities, such as caring, we will always look at that.

"So I would refute the claims made."

She added the very nature of the Labour Party meant individual needs would be met by the party and the contract was a way of ensuring all councillors were on an equal footing.

"We are often told by the public they don't see their councillor unless there is an election," said Ms Egan, "this contract recognises that and to show people we are listening to them. People want the the street surgeries."

Cllr Linda Thomas, leader of the Labour Party in Bolton, thanked Cllr Watters for her “hard work” on anti-poverty initiatives as well as working with the voluntary sector when Labour were in charge.

She said: “Anna’s been a long-standing member and it’s always very disappointing when any colleague decides to leave the party and become independent. In the past, Anna has been a member of the cabinet and she was very hard working.

“She had decided that she was going to stand down and in a few months she wasn’t going to be a councillor anymore. It’s a pity that she’s felt the need to do this really."

Referring to the social media post, Cllr Thomas said: “She made a mistake over a post she put out recently. Other powers that be, higher than me, asked for an apology. It’s a pity because she was a hard-working colleague.

“The advice we were given [from region] was that she should apologise publicly. She did and she took her post down. It’s standard procedure.

“She had apologised and said that she would never do anything like that again. It’s just a shame that she hasn’t seen out her last few weeks as a councillor.

“All Labour councillors across the country have to sign a contract and it’s up to the LCF how much they expect. It’s specific to each town.

“That’s up to our LCF to make that decision and how we enforce it is up to the officers of the LCF.

“We do expect all councillors to campaign. That was one of the reasons Anna wasn’t going to stand.”