D-day looming for Lincolnshire's breakaway UKIP councillors
The future of five Lincolnshire UKIP politicians today hangs in the balance as national chiefs look set to oust them from the party.
The Echo understands the councillors on Lincolnshire County Council could all be removed within a matter of weeks.
It comes after all five joined Chris Pain in a breakaway group, now called Lincolnshire UKIP, following a split with original UKIP members last month.
Cllr Pain was kicked out of UKIP altogether on September 18 following a meeting of the party's emergency disciplinary committee in London. It was believed to be because of a dispute between the Wainfleet and Burgh councillor and UKIP national chairman Steve Crowther.
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Now, fellow breakaway members Tiggs Keywood-Wainwright, Bob McAuley, John Beaver, Richard Fairman and Alan Jesson are being targeted after their switch of allegiance saw UKIP surrender their official opposition status to Labour at county offices.
A UKIP source told the Echo: "The future of the five councillors is being discussed but the party will follow procedure."
And party officials have also ordered the breakaway group to rename themselves – telling them to lose the UKIP banner.
The source added: "UKIP Lincolnshire is not a name the party will permit for a breakaway group, led by a man who has been booted out of the party."
This is the latest development in a long list since UKIP took the local elections by storm in May, winning 16 seats on Lincolnshire County Council and becoming the official opposition.
Speaking to the Echo, breakaway member Bob McAuley revealed he was hopeful of a meeting with the party's national secretary, Matthew Richardson, in Lincoln within the next 10 days to resolve the matter.
"Hopefully there will be a meeting between all UKIP county councillors and Matthew in Lincoln in the next seven to 10 days," he said.
The start of the end of UKIP – as it was – began in July when then-leader Cllr Pain demoted both his deputies, Victoria Ayling and Robin Hunter-Clarke.
Fellow breakaway councillor John Beaver said: "I find it deeply upsetting because I have worked hard for UKIP over 10 years.
"I am aware the party are trying to get rid of us in favour of the ex-Conservative UKIP councillors.
"They think the sun shines out of their backsides and I find it completely ridiculous."
The Echo also understands if the five are removed from the party, they may open talks over merging with the Lincolnshire Independents.
Any move would see that group replace Labour as official opposition at county offices.
Marianne Overton, leader of the Lincolnshire Independents, said: "We have not been involved in any formal engagement yet. If anyone approaches us, I would call a meeting with our members and see what is best for them."