THE Christchurch Independents group met yesterday afternoon to work out a way forward after finding themselves with eight seats on the hung council

They elected Cllr Margaret Phipps as group leader and Cllr David Flagg as deputy leader.

Plans began last summer to field a team of candidates after attempts to stop the merger with Bournemouth and Poole were unsuccessful.

They all but annihilated the Conservatives who were left with one seat on Friday in one of their former strongholds.

In a statement issued to the Echo yesterday the group said they would look to work across party and across the area "to first and foremost protect the interests of the people of Christchurch, which is what we were elected to do".

The group's statement added: “We also recognise that the new BCP council must be able to function efficiently and effectively and deliver for all its residents and that most people want councillors to work together in a spirit of co-operation.

“In this endeavour we will talk to all parties, groups and individuals except the Conservatives, who pushed the merger through against the wishes of the people of Christchurch.

"To work with them would be a betrayal of our election promises and what we have campaigned for in the last four years."