FIVE councillors who joined a breakaway Ukip group on Tendring Council have been suspended by the party’s national executive committee.

The Ukip group became the second largest on the council, gaining 22 seats at the local council elections on May 7.

But the group split following a dispute over working with the Tories to form an administration.

Nine of its councillors joined the breakaway 'Tendring Ukip' group and voted in favour of a Conservative-led administration, which now includes Tendring Ukip group leader Mick Skeels and deputy leader, John Hughes, in its cabinet.

But just one week on, four of the nine – Anne Davis, Jeffrey Bray, Laurie Gray and Leonard Sibbald – have rejoined the official Ukip group.

Its leader, Mark Stephenson, said national party chairman Steve Crowther has taken the decision to suspend the remaining 'breakaway group' councillors Mick Skeels Sr, Mick Skeels Jr, John Hughes, Anne Poonian and John Chittock.

He said: “Ukip has suspended five recently elected councillors, some of whom have accepted jobs as part of a Conservative-controlled council, naming themselves Tendring Ukip in the process.

“This action went against the democratic decision of the group, namely to be an effective opposition.

“What is a shame is that Ukip had a phenomenal result last month, but due to what appears to be personal ambitions, an exciting opportunity for change and improvement in Tendring has now been lost.

“Despite a series of attempts to find common ground, we reached an impasse.”

Tendring Ukip leader Mick Skeels confirmed he and the other Tendring Ukip councillors have been suspended from the party.

He said: “We fear that the Ukip group’s approach not to work with the Conservatives and Independents will, at best, deny them the opportunity to play a key role in Tendring’s future and, at worst, result in endless in-fighting on the council."

Clacton Ukip MP Douglas Carswell, who has backed the "official" Ukip group, said both sides need to "simmer down" and focus on fulfilling their roles as either administration or opposition.

It is understood that some Tendring Ukip councillors contacted the police after feeling intimidated following their decision to join the breakaway group.

Essex Police confirmed officers had been contacted and that statements were taken, but that they are "not investigating any offences".

For the full story, see today's Clacton, Frinton and Walton Gazette