INDEPENDENT Community and Health Concern is now the single largest opposition party on Wyre Forest District Council after an Independent, former Tory councillor joined the group.

Mike Salter told The Shuttle he had joined ICHC because he felt he could serve residents in his Mitton ward, in Stourport, better as “an independent in a larger group”. He quit the ruling Conservative group to become an Independent councillor in May.

It means the make up of the council is now Conservative: 19, ICHC: 9, Labour: 8, Liberal and Independent: 6. As a formality, the updated political balance will become official after the next full council meeting on Wednesday, November 27.

Mr Salter said: “I thought to myself I can represent my residents better in a larger group.

“I always supported [ICHC life president] Dr Richard Taylor in the early years and I think he is a very good chap. I left the Conservative party and I want to remain as an independent with Health Concern.

“I will still be working exactly how I always have done for the people of Mitton and continue to serve them. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues.”

Asked whether he felt he should stand for election again after switching parties, Mr Salter said: “It costs a lot of money for people to have elections and that is why I feel every four years would be a big saving to the council.”

Wyre Forest’s ICHC leader Graham Ballinger said: “We believe a man of his experience for the Stourport area is just what we needed to compliment what we have already got.

“We are now on our own as the largest opposition group. It proves how wrong people were [when they said ICHC was ‘dead’]. ICHC is now the only true opposition in Wyre Forest to the Conservative administration.

“Mike is a person of integrity who knows we have no party whip, we allow people to vote according to their conscience and that is why he wants to be here.”

He added councillors were “entitled to move around a bit”.

“Across the country people are doing this all the time when they feel they are not happy in their current set up,” he said. “Mike is up for election again next May and it will be up to the public to decide. It is whether the individual give good value that matters.”