A CHARD town councillor who was elected as an independent has joined the Conservatives.

Melissa Whittaker-Mather announced she has joined forces with the party almost a year to the day since she was elected.

The councillor had previously stood as a candidate for the Labour party, unsuccessfully.

In an open letter to residents, she said: “As an independent councillor, I have acted on your behalf to the best of my ability since my election to Chard Town Council in May 2019.

“I have noticed, as I expect you have, just how wide the gap is between the public and the council and I firmly believe this is because the council do not promote transparency, nor wish to seek your input into how we deliver our services.

“The town council is a heavily politically dominated council and has proved to be more than challenging to navigate.

“I have found myself on more than one occasion needing advice and support. More recently, I have found that my health has been impacted to such a degree that I am now in desperate need of recuperation.

“After great consideration, I have joined the Conservative Party and will continue to represent residents in Chard as a Conservative councillor.”

Cllr Whittaker-Mather added that she had been considering joining the Conservatives for some time.

“Chard desperately needs a more focused and logical approach which is lacking,” she said.

“I do believe this council can be improved in time with strong governance, a sensible approach to managing our resources, and creating a clear ‘focus’.”

The councillor, who represents the Chard Jocelyn ward, has previously protested against the Tory-run county council.

She is a co-lead for the transport campaign group ‘Everybody Get on Board’, and took part in the StopSomersetCuts austerity protests.

Cllr Whittaker-Mather added: “EGoB is non-political. As and when issues arise, we attempt to liaise and understand the implications and decide how to act.

“With regard to wider county matters, being a Conservative will allow me to have far greater input, via Conservative county councillors, into the policies which are formulated.

“It is common knowledge that I have a strong interest in public transport, and many issues centred around special educational needs and disability.”

Chard Town Council currently has a Liberal Democrat majority.

“Please understand that this decision in no way affects how I will interact with you as individuals nor how I will work,” Cllr Whittaker-Mather open letter added.

“I will continue to support you and raise any concerns you have as I have before.

“The political landscape continues to change drastically, but the Conservatives are a broad party and I believe that I can best represent you with a conservative approach and begin to form a strong opposition to the Liberal Democrats in town council.

“I appreciate many may find this news surprising but I assure you, I am still the same person I’ve always been and I will always respect your views, whatever they are, and treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve.”