UKIP’s Arun leader has insisted the party is ‘anti fat cat’ - despite her colleagues supporting a rise of more than £6,000 for a council chief executive.
The party faced criticism last month when all its district councillors, bar leader Ann Rapnik, supported Conservative councillors in increasing Nigel Lynn’s salary.
Its councillors have faced further internal and external criticism after voting for the Tory budget yesterday, refusing to back a Liberal Democrat amendment calling for council staff to receive the same future pay rise as the chief executive.
And separately, UKIP county councillor Graham Jones, who distanced himself from last night’s decision, said he would not stand for the party in the county council elections in May.
Reacting to last night’s vote, Lib Dem leader Francis Oppler said: “What is the point of people voting for UKIP when all they do is support the Conservatives?
“UKIP say they are different and fight the establishment and fat cats. The reality is that they don’t. There is no difference between them, judging by what we saw last night.”
West Sussex County Council’s budget debate last week saw numerous amendments tabled – including ones submitted by UKIP.
Yesterday’s Arun District Council budget, meanwhile, saw only the Lib Dems suggest changes.
Mrs Rapnik joined UKIP colleagues Derek Ambler, Vicky Rhodes and Colin Cates in supporting the Tory budget.
She said she could not support the Lib Dems because they ‘couldn’t come up with where they were going to find the money’.
“Last night we voted for the budget because I have been on two working parties which discussed the facts leading to the budget, so I have been involved and know what we could cut out and what we couldn’t,” she said.
“There were obviously a couple of things we didn’t agree with but you can never please everybody.”
Asked to identify key differences between UKIP and the Conservatives at district level, Mrs Rapnik said UKIP was ‘anti fat cat’.
This was despite her three colleagues’ support for Mr Lynn’s wage rise.
“I could have slain them,” she said.
“I was furious and upset with both my team and the council for voting against me but we have dealt with that issue internally. It was very unfortunate and I can’t say any more on that, really.”
Candidate withdraws UKIP candidacy ahead of county elections
Mrs Rapnik, also a county councillor for Bersted, noted the party would soon publish its manifesto for May’s elections.
UKIP county councillor for Felpham Graham Jones, meanwhile, today confirmed he would not be standing for the party.
Mr Jones is considering standing as an Independent – months after rejoining UKIP – following a nine-month stint away from party politics.
He said: “With the Brexit vote out of the way I have in the main put party politics aside concentrating on the community’s needs, To this end I have now withdrawn my UKIP candidacy and am considering fighting the 2017 election as an Independent.”
Mr Jones confirmed yesterday’s budget decision was not behind his decision.
But while he said he respected the stance, he said he could not support it.
He previously spoke out against UKIP councillors’ support for Mr Lynn’s salary increase, branding them ‘mavericks’.
He said: “I must express disappointment that they have supported the Tory council tax increase.
“This is in direct conflict with what we did at County Hall where the UKIP group opposed the council tax increase while at the same time putting forward a sensible proposal requesting that the council looks into the possibility of there being a unitary authority established in the county in order to deal with the funding crisis that all councils face.”
Secretary for the Bognor Regis and Littlehampton UKIP branch, Tony Dixon, has also withdrawn his candidacy.
He declined to make a statement.
CLICK HERE for coverage of last night’s budget debate.