AN outspoken representative of the county has gained political colours as he steps away from his Independent battle.

Mike Rigby, who has been a Somerset County councillor for the last six years, has decided to join the Liberal Democrats.

The councillor has represented the Lydeard Division as an Independent, championing issues such as the building of the roundabout on the A358 and the future of the county's libraries.

He said: “I’ve been the county councillor for the Lydeard Division for almost six years.

“I have taken satisfaction from providing a strong voice for the people in my area at a time of unprecedented pressure on local government in the form of slashed central government funding.

“I was elected as an Independent and have enjoyed the freedom that independence has provided, choosing which battles to fight.

“However, I have reached the position where some of the things I want to achieve for our community can best be delivered as a member of a major political group.

He forged a kind of alliance with the Lib Dems when he was invited to become part of the parties 'shadow cabinet' - meaning he's the opposition spokesman for a set of certain issues or topics.

Shortly after he found his beliefs and values were sometimes 'parallel' to those of the yellow party.

He added: “Some time ago, the Liberal Democrats generously invited me into the county council shadow cabinet.

“I have appreciated the deeper insight this position has afforded me and enjoyed working within the team.

“For some time, I have found myself travelling on parallel lines to the Liberal Democrats with little difference between our beliefs and policy direction so, in the end, it has not been a difficult decision to join the Lib Dems.

“We share views on all of the big local issues, including inadequate funding of local government and the dangers of outsourcing.

“We also agree on national policy issues including the economy, health and the biggest issue of the lot; Brexit, which I consider to be an historic mistake, riddled with illegality and which I feel an obligation to continue to oppose.

“I will continue to represent the people of the Lydeard Division with the same independent mindedness and strong voice, but as a member of the Lib Dem group, with whom I look forward to playing a full part in transforming the fortunes of our community, town and county.”

Jane Lock, Leader of the Lib Dems at Somerset County Council said cllr Rigby joins them during an important time of battling cuts.

She added: “The Liberal Democrat Group welcomes Mike Rigby, our newest member. Mike strengthens our position further on the County Council as we continue to oppose damaging cuts to the services for Somerset’s residents.

"We share values and principles with Mike, a councillor who will continue to work hard for his Lydeard Division residents and all of Somerset."

The county's district councils will soon go through a series of local elections - while Somerset County councillors remain safe in their seats.

Gideon Amos, Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Taunton Deane said: “Sensible people across the spectrum now recognise the Lib Dems are offering the positive and constructive alternative the country needs.

"Cllr Mike Rigby will hugely strengthen our Taunton Deane Lib Dem team and I’m delighted to welcome him on board.”

But not everyone is thrilled by Cllr Rigby's move to the Lib Dems. 

Leader of Somerset County Council, Conservative cllr David Fothergill, said: "I am disappointed to hear that Mike Rigby has turned his back on Independence and joined the Lib Dems.

"I have always appreciated Mike's non-partisan comments so it’s a very great shame he’s now party political."