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Why I'm joining UKIP today, by Lib Dem Councillor Malcolm Gwinnett

Wolverhampton | | Published:

Tonight, Nick Clegg will try to convince the rest of the country that we need to carry on in the European Union as it is.

With regret, he will do so without my support as someone who has represented the Liberal Democrats as a councillor in Wolverhampton the best part of a quarter of a century and who was honoured to serve as the city's mayor.

Today, I am joining the UK Independence Party. This is not a decision I have taken lightly. My seat in the Spring Vale ward, whose residents I was first chosen to serve in 1990, is up for re-election in just over a month.

But the Liberal Democrats both nationally and here in Wolverhampton are no longer a party that I feel I can support.

On the EU, I cannot see how we can back the Deputy Prime Minister's stance. It is costing us millions of pounds every day to stay in the union. I have believed for a long time that free trade agreements work and that is what we need. We are an island at a tipping point. We have to change before we go under.

In last week's first round of the debate with Nigel Farage, Mr Clegg appeared happy to have the doors to the UK open to everyone without a job, able to claim benefits after a short space of time, putting more strain on schools, the NHS, emergency and council services. I cannot support that stance.

I was one of many Liberal Democrats who felt let down by the Deputy Prime Minister when, just after going into coalition, he went back on the party's pledge over university tuition fees. He has also allowed the Government to bring in the bedroom tax. Meanwhile, the past 18 months have been a nightmare. There are only three Liberal Democrats on the council in Wolverhampton.

At the same time, as I was recovering from a heart transplant, I was asked by my colleagues to make a decision on whether or not I would stand again.

I asked to have until September last year to ensure my doctor could give me the all-clear. But in July the party chose Tom Stokes to contest Spring Vale in my place. I was effectively deselected.

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While all this was going on, despite cuts to the council's funding, the controlling Labour party has continued to work on plans to build an office block we do not need by the bus station and to spend millions on refurbishing the Civic Centre.

In January I wrote to ask Nick Clegg for help in convincing the city council that it needed to do things differently. I'm still waiting for an answer.

When I was mayor in 2010/11 my aim was to help regenerate the city. So far I have helped bring the Sunbeam building forward and worked to support new housing developments whenever possible. I'll stand for Ukip on May 22 because I agree with its aims.

For the full story on Councillor Gwinnett's defection, click here.

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