BOURNEMOUTH’S only opposition councillor with long experience is to resign, giving the Conservatives the chance to further tighten their hold on the Town Hall.

Independent Cllr Anne Rey is standing down after 26 years on the authority and intends to spend more time in Spain for health reasons.

The former mayor was the only independent returned at the most recent elections in 2015.

Another councillor, Steve Bartlett, became an independent after defecting from the Tories earlier this year, and the borough has a Green councillor, Simon Bull.

The three are currently arrayed against 51 Conservatives. Her resignation will trigger a byelection in the ward of Throop and Muscliff.

Cllr Rey said her health “hasn’t been brilliant over the last couple of years” and she would spend more time abroad with husband Jonn.

“We are going to spend more time in Spain where our health is much better due to the warmer climate,” she said.

“It has been both a privilege and honour to have served as a Bournemouth councillor since 1991, having served the Redhill Park and Throop and Muscliff wards.

“My year as mayor in 2003-04 was the highlight serving my home town.”

Anne Rey is the daughter of the late Philip Whitelegg, who served on Bournemouth council for almost 50 years.

A former pupil of Hill View Primary and head girl at Glenmoor, she worked in residential homes for the elderly at Avonview in Christchurch, Henley Court in Bournemouth and Wickmeads in Tuckton, becoming a residential social worker.

She was elected alongside her father in Redhill Park in 1991, although he was standing as an independent and she as a Liberal Democrat.

She resigned from the Lib Dems in 1992 and went on to lead the Independent group of councillors from 2000. She chaired the social services committee and the caring for people scrutiny and review panel.

Outside the council, she has organised the Poppy Appeal in the town centre and been involved with Bournemouth in Bloom, Bournemouth Illuminations, Chesthelp Bournemouth and Bournemouth War Memorial Homes. She was a stalwart of Bournemouth Spiritualist Church.

Cllr Rey said of her council work: “I have worked with many amazing, hard-working and dedicated members from all parties, some who are no longer with us, but who have made a difference to our town and its residents.

“I will miss my work as a councillor and all the people I work with at the council and around our beautiful town but know that when an opportunity arises one has to grab it with both hands.

“We only have one life and we must make the most of every day.”