FOUR Conservative councillors in South Ribble have quit their party to become independent.

The resignation comes in the wake of a motion of no confidence in council leader, Margaret Smith, who was criticised by some in her party about her handling of a taxi driver licensing issue during which two officers were suspended and concerns were raised about the safeguarding of children.

Conservative Councillor Smith held on to her position in a council vote but four of her party colleagues have now resigned the party whip and will represent their constituents as 'Independent Conservatives'.

It means the current make up of the council is now 25 Conservatives and 25 from other parties or Independent.

Councillors Paul Wharton Barbara Nathan, Michael Nathan and Andrea Ball are those who have quit citing 'significant failures in leadership'.

Councillor, Wharton introduced the motion of no confidence in Margaret Smith after an independent report revealed background checks on taxi drivers were not carried out completely.

A statement on behalf of the councillors said: "Councillors Paul Wharton, Michael Nathan, Andrea Ball and Barbara Nathan have resigned the whip from the current conservative group at South Ribble Borough Council.

"We are all very aware that we have been voted in as conservative councillors by the residents of our respective wards in South Ribble, therefore we will continue to be independent conservative councillors without the rule of councillor Margaret Smith overhanging.

"As four independent councillors, we will work independently from the current conservative group. This will have no impact on the commitment we have to our residents and communities.

"This decision has not been taken lightly, however due to the ongoing circumstances and failures within the current conservative group, we are unable to support the working ideology of the leadership."

A spokesman for South Ribble Council said the resignations were a party matter.