A CONSERVATIVE councillor, who has served on the borough council for more than 15 years, has defected to the UK Independence Party (UKIP).
Cllr John Wilson, who represents Ashdown ward, says he was deselected by the Conservatives to stand as a candidate for next year’s borough council elections.
The authority now has its first UKIP councillor in its history.
UKIP gained a lot of votes in Hastings in May’s county council elections but failed to capture any seats in the town.
Cllr Wilson said: “After 15 years as a Conservative councillor at Hastings Borough Council (HBC) I was in effect subjected to an ageism practice when it came to selection for the 2014 elections. Other councillors of a similar age have been subjected to similar pressure not to stand. The result was that most didn’t run rather than risk being humiliated.
“I know a number of people who support UKIP and have a great deal of respect for them. Politically they represent a broad church of views which I share.
“I know that it is run very much along the lines of doing what is best for the electorate rather than the whipped party line system with which I have been increasingly uncomfortable with for some time.”
Paul Willard, chairman of Hastings UKIP, said: ”When I heard that John had been in contact with UKIP, although shocked I was not overly surprised as I have known for a little more than a decade a person with such morality and pride in this town.
“Having been on the borough council since 1997 John has done wonders for the people of Ashdown ward and we in Hastings and Rye UKIP branch offer him a warm welcome.”
Nigel Farage, UKIP leader and MEP for the South East Counties, said: “I am delighted to welcome John to the party, as he will be a great asset. Hastings will be a target in next year’s borough council elections and I have every confidence that, with his track record of commitment to the town and ward that he will retain his seat.”
Cllr Rob Cooke, HBC’s Conservative leader, said Cllr Wilson’s defection was ‘unfortunate’.
He added: “John has done a lot for the town but it was felt there were better candidates to take the Conservative party forward for next year’s elections.”