Allerdale Council has backtracked on plans to limit the number of councillors from each political group at its next full council meeting after half of one group turned independent to get around the restriction.

The Allerdale Independents group has now split in half, with Herbert Briggs, Peter Gaston, George Kemp, Adrian Kirkbride, Peter Little, Blain Sansom, Will Wilkinson and Lynda Williams leaving to become independent councillors.

Councillor Wilkinson said his own decision had been a “tactical move” after council chief executive Andrew Seekings attempted to limit the number of councillors from each political group on the authority to 50 per cent of the group’s membership.

The council said the restriction was considered “appropriate” as councillors adapted to virtual meetings and had been agreed with each of the group leaders.

Coun Wilkinson, who represents St Michaels Workington, said: “It was basically a tactical move.

“Decisions were made that groups were only allowed to have 50 per cent attendance at meetings.

“The electorate voted me in to be their voice.”

Coun Wilkinson said he was only speaking about his own decision and could not speak for any other councillor who had decided to leave the Allerdale Independents.

He denied there had been a fallout in the group, as did Councillor Peter Gaston, who represents Stainburn and Clifton.

“I personally wanted to vote and if I wasn’t one of those eight that were attending the meeting, it was taking my right away,” Coun Gaston said.

A spokesman for the council said Mr Seekings had the power, following consultation with group leaders, to run meetings on a proportional basis.

They said: "As members are gradually getting used to the technology and processes required for virtual meetings it was considered appropriate to run the first full council meeting on a proportional basis, in the way that other authorities both nationally and within Cumbria have done."

But once the eight Allerdale Independents resigned from the group, leaving 11 non-aligned councillors rather than the previous three, Mr Seekings decided to reverse the decision.

“Under the circumstances, in fairness to all members, the chief executive, again in consultation with all group leaders, has therefore reversed the proportional decision and the council meeting will be run on a 100 per cent attendance basis,” they added.

“All members have been offered additional training to support their attendance at this, and future meetings."

The move reduced the Allerdale Independents' number of councillors from 16 to eight, with Carole Armstrong, Nicky Cockburn, Iain Greaney, Hilary Harrington, Daniel Horsley, Janet King, Joe Sandwith and group leader Paul Scott remaining.

The Conservatives now have the most councillors on the authority with 14 while Labour have become the second biggest party with 12 members.

Stephen Stoddart had previously left the Allerdale Independents group to become the only Moorclose Independent on the council, while Marion Fitzgerald and Joe Holliday were already independents.