THE leader of Bournemouth Borough Council’s Liberal Democrats has quit the party in protest following this week’s Commons vote over the EU.

Cllr Sue Levell has resigned her party membership and will now serve as an Independent in the Redhill and Northbourne ward.

She said that her party’s U-turn nationally, voting with the Government against a referendum on the EU, meant she could not remain a Lib Dem.

Cllr Levell told the Daily Echo: “First and foremost it’s got absolutely nothing to do with the local party or my colleagues.

“Unfortunately we lost so many good councillors at the last election because, I believe, of the backlash over tuition fees, and I decided to carry on.

“But with the latest U-turn over Europe it’s double standards.

“It’s not been easy because locally I have no qualms, but I hope the residents of Redhill and Northbourne that kindly voted for me can understand that my decision is one of principle.”

The Lib Dems were left with just three seats on the council after May’s elections. Former leader of the group on the council, Claire Smith, who lost her seat, said at the time that the party received a “national kicking”.

Cllr Levell’s decision leaves Bournemouth’s political make-up as 46 Conservatives, three Labour, three Independents and two Lib Dems.

Shortly after the election, Cllr Derek Borthwick controversially joined the Conservatives after being elected as an Independent.

Independent group leader Cllr Anne Rey welcomed Cllr Levell.

She said: “I understand Sue Levell has left the Lib Dems because of the national situation and the Lib Dem leader’s U-turn on tuition fees and the EU vote.

“We welcome her very warmly into our Independent group, as we know she is an excellent councillor who has always put the residents of Redhill and Northbourne first.

“It’s great to see an Independent representing the ward.”