A FORMER Wyre Forest District Council cabinet member has left the Conservatives.

Bewdley and Arley ward member Julian Phillips sensationally announced today he has stepped down from the district council's Conservative group and Wyre Forest Conservative Association following an internal dispute.

In a statement Mr Phillips, who is also a Bewdley town councillor, said: "Out of respect for the party I am leaving behind, I do not intend to reveal the nature of that dispute, although the local party may wish to.

"I apologise to the residents of Bewdley and Arley who re-elected me under the Conservative banner in 2012, I certainly had no intention of leaving the group mid-term and will still continue to support policies that are in line with the Conservative manifesto for Wyre Forest for the 2012 elections.

"I will remain a strong and loyal supporter of [Wyre Forest MP] Mark Garnier who, of course, is also my employer but regardless of that I feel is an exceptional member of Parliament who is 100 per cent dedicated to all residents of Wyre Forest. I trust the local party will unite behind him so that he retains his seat.

"This has been one of the hardest decisions of my career but I feel that the local party will be best placed overcome its recent problems without me around as a divisive member.”

Mr Phillips was a cabinet member for place-shaping from May 2011 until September 2012 when he was replaced by councillor Anne Hingley.

The councillor did not say if he had switched parties or was now serving as an independent member but the move leaves the ruling Conservative group on the district council with just 18 out of 42 members.

He is the third district councillor in under a year to leave the authority's largest party after now-Independent councillors John Aston and Mike Salter stepped down from the Conervatives last May. The group also suffered a blow when Stourport town councillor John Holden jumped ship to the UK Independence Party that same month.