The man behind the success of an independent group on Allerdale council claims his political opponents are trying to oust them.

Stephen Stoddart is the leader of the West Cumbria Independents Group (WCIG), which saw 17 councillors elected on the district council in May.

Despite initially forming a coalition with the Tories, a fall-out over who would succeed Marion Fitzgerald as leader led to it being dissolved.

The animosity between the groups stems from the Tories’ unwillingness to support coun Scott’s nomination as leader, following coun Fitzgerald’s resignation from the role.

WCIG’s coun Stoddart, Paul Scott and George Kemp were removed from the executive.

But while statements from the group and the new Tory leader Mike Johnson said it was WCIG who walked away from the coalition, coun Stoddart insists he was sacked.

“We had a gentlemen’s agreement when we set up the coalition and then coun Johnson sent me an email saying it was no longer working and he was appointing some Conservative councillors to fill our portfolios.

“We feel like we’ve gone back to square one when Labour was in power.

“I feel for all the people who have voted for the independents, it’s been a political coup and this had been planned for a while by coun Johnson.

“I now there have been meetings behind out backs and information hasn’t been shared with us.

“We’ve been treated like second class citizens.

“I think the Tories and Labour are going to vote together to prevent the independents from taking control of the council.”

There are currently four vacancies on the council and by-elections are expected to be held later this year.

With the WCIG having 17 councillors, the Tories having 14 and Labour with 13, the political make-up of the authority could dramatically change.

Coun Johnson said: “WCIG group spokesperson Paul Scott, told me that he was going to dissolve the coalition after the full Council. I therefore accepted that we were now two groups working independently and could no longer work together as an executive, so removed them accordingly.

“This has not been orchestrated for a while as Stephen states, as clearly I had no idea of Marion’s intention to resign until it happened, and furthermore the person the WCIG would then nominate as their potential leader of the council, who we as a Conservative group would not support.

“This is merely our reaction to factual statements made by the WCIG spokesman Paul Scott outlined above that he would dissolve the coalition. Yet another demonstration of the paranoia that we have dealt with over several months from the WCIG executive members. I don’t quite understand their reaction to me taking control of a situation, which was a direct response to their unwillingness to work together. I’m not really sure what they expected to happen, but we clearly couldn’t continue as we were.”

Labour councillor Alan Smith said: “Labour haven’t done any deals with anyone. Until the by-elections, it’s impossible to say what the council will look like.”