FORMER Swindon mayor Steve Wakefield has quit Swindon Council’s ruling Conservative group.

The Toothill and Westlea councillor stepped down after becoming disillusioned with the group he has been representing since 2000 and said he would continue to represent his ward as an independent councillor.

Fellow Tories and opposition politicians all paid tribute to Coun Wakefield, who also writes regularly for the Adver.

Coun Wakefield, who served as mayor in 2008/09, said: “I have resigned the whip of the Conservative group and my membership of the Conservative Party. Some people will say they leave the party but sometimes the party leaves them.

“I am going to be an independent councillor and will continue to represent my ward, working closely with my ward colleague Mary Martin and the other councillors in West Swindon.”

Deputy leader Coun Fionuala Foley said: “I was very disappointed to receive the letter from Steve Wakefield announcing his resignation from the Conservative group. I would like to express my thanks for his help in the past and wish him well.”

Labour group leader Coun Derique Montaut said: “It doesn’t come as a surprise to me and shows there are problems in the Conservative group. I wouldn’t be surprised if more councillors follow.”

And Lib Dem leader Coun Stan Pajak said: “Something is clearly awry in the Conservative group.

“There are clearly a lot of disagreements between the members of the group which have resulted in a well-established and well-liked councillor having to stand down.

“For him to leave he must have had serious worries about where the group was going. There have been a whole host of issues that have created divisions – from the canal to single status and lately wi-fi.

“He will be a big loss to the group as an ex-mayor and very well-established councillor who is admired across the councillors and by residents in his ward.”

Coun Foley said she was not aware that Coun Wakefield had any problems with the Tory leadership. She said: “He hasn’t spoken to (Council leader) Rod Bluh in the last few months about any problems so I would be surprised if that was the case”, she said.

Train buff Steve writes regular features for the Adver and published a book last year on his father’s career on the railways.