The previously-independent former leader of Allerdale Council has joined the Conservatives.

Councillor Marion Fitzgerald, who led the authority from May 2019 until February this year, announced the move and blamed the “approach and behaviour” of some members of the Allerdale Independents group for leaving her with “no alternative” but to join one of the authority’s political parties.

She said: “This is to help ensure that the visions and aspirations that I have always had for Allerdale can be protected and carried forward and that the effects of the negativity and obstructiveness demonstrated by the West Cumbria Independents group do not sabotage the recovery that is needed post COVID-19 and the progress that we can make to maintain and improve the council’s services to the people of Allerdale.”

Coun Fitzgerald, who is the executive member for policy, governance and people resources and a ward councillor for Dalton, stressed that her criticism did not apply to “some members” of the Allerdale Independents, who she said were hard-working and committed.

She also said that the move would not have an impact on her ward duties.

Councillor Paul Scott, who is the leader of the Allerdale Independents, said he respected Coun Fitzgerald’s opinion and wished her well in the party, but felt that a desire to secure “value for money” by scrutinising and challenging decisions being made had been mistaken for negativity.

He added: “What I would say is that some councillors, probably myself included, see things a little bit differently because we are businessmen and we want value for money.

“Just because we’ve been new to the council we probably are a little bit rough around the edges but at the end of the day we were put in place to scrutinise decisions made in the council.

“I apologise if that upsets Marion, or anybody else, but our voters want us to challenge the council in everything they do.”

The move means 15 councillors are now Conservatives, one fewer than the Allerdale Independents who remain the largest political group with 16 members.

Labour have 12 councillors while Steven Stoddart is the council’s only Moorclose Independent and Joe Holliday is an independent councillor.

Conservative Mike Johnson, who has been the acting leader of the council since Coun Fitzgerald stepped down, said he was “delighted” to welcome her to the group.

“She brings with her a wealth of experience and knowledge, and is a really strong and credible addition to our group,” he added.

“Working with Marion over the past year has been a fantastic experience and I know that together we share an ambition for Allerdale to be a great place to live, work, visit and invest.”