BOTH of Hamworthy’s Poole People councillors have left the party to become independents.

Julie Bagwell and Daniel Butt made the decision earlier this week, criticising its leader, Mark Howell, and “the binds of the political whip”.

Although Cllr Bagwell will remain a member of the ruling Unity Alliance “to give it time to bed in”, Cllr Butt will leave the coalition.

“Despite empty assurances, I have been compelled to adhere to a political whip which is contrary to the values I uphold,” Cllr Butt said.

The pair are two of Hamworthy’s three councillors, the other being Conservative Mike White.

The defections have resulted in the group dropping below the Christchurch Independents to become the fourth largest in BCP Council.

Cllr Bagwell, who had represented the party on Poole council, said she was unable to follow all her residents’ wishes while under a political whip.

The party’s website says: “We believe that local politics is best served by parties working together to build consensus, not by going alone and imposing a whip.”

Despite this both councillors said they had, more than once, been told to vote a certain way.

“I was voted in by my residents as their voice and they are everything to me,” she said.

“When they voted for me they voted for me as Poole People but also as an independent – as a voice for them.”

Both councillors said they had not been consulted on the party’s decision to join the Liberal Democrat-led coalition.

“I have been an angry person since I was told that and from then on it has been a downward spiral,” Cllr Bagwell added.

“But leaving is like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders – I don’t have to worry about any decisions being made in my name anymore.”

She praised the work and support of the party’s board and said she would remain a coalition member to prevent the Conservative group taking control of the council.

Councillor Butt said he “did not wish to be part of Poole People Party’s petty party politics”.

“For six months I tried to work with a group that only thinks about the power they have over others, the paid responsibilities they can bargain for – taking cabinet and chairman roles with no skills or experience,” he said.

“The people of BCP have been the very last people they were thinking of.”

He also criticised Cllr Howell’s attempt to prevent the council adopting the internationally-recognised definition of anti-Semitism at the council’s September meeting.

Cllr Howell sent the Echo a lengthy riposte to the defectors.

He said: “My reading of the situation is that Julie always had reservations about engaging with the Unity Alliance.

"She did not object at the time of formation. Indeed she was involved in the process. She has since regretted keeping quiet and been looking for other justifications to distance herself.

"Our attempts to address her concerns made the situation worse by denying her such justifications. Eventually she forced the issue by making statements that were untrue (e.g. lack of consultation). I think it is best for both sides that Julie has made her decision, but it is a pity it had to happen in this way.

"As for Dan, Julie pushed for Dan to be recruited to support her in Hamworthy so it is not surprising that he has made the decision to leave at the same time. Until Saturday, though, he gave no indication that he was dissatisfied."

He said: "Poole People councillors are still not subject to a whip, but they are expected to show goodwill towards the Unity Alliance and engage in consensus-building exercises."

"They are also expected to use their votes to maintain the stability of the Unity Alliance within the council’s structure, for example by supporting Unity Alliance members in elections for chairs of committees.

"Julie and Dan have decided that they are not comfortable being subject to these expectations and have decided to leave Poole People as a result.

"Membership of the Unity Alliance has already enabled Poole People to secure the re-opening and refurbishment of public toilets in Poole, including Lake Pier in Hamworthy.

"The Unity Alliance is seeking to purchase the power station site in order to advance regeneration and deliver more affordable and social housing.

"We are also working hard to win grant monies for revitalisation of Poole’s High Street.

"We hope that Julie and Dan will continue to use their votes to support the Unity Alliance’s transformational policy agenda across the conurbation."