THE Liberal Democrats have lost their majority on Somerset West and Taunton Council after two of its councillors resigned, with a third becoming a 'LibDem independent'.

It comes weeks after the party leader, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, narrowly clung on to her position.

She was challenged for the leadership by her predecessor Cllr Simon Coles, who tied 15 all in a vote.

The Lib Dems won the inaugural election to the newly-created council in May 2019, winning 30 of the 59 seats and pushing the ruling Conservatives into third place.

The party held the seat of Trull, Pitminster and Corfe in a by-election on Thursday (May 6).

But the group will now have to govern as a minority after two of its councillors resigned – with a third stating he would sit as an independent due to “differences” with the council’s leadership.

The two councillors to resign were Cllr Peter Pilkington (Old Cleeve and District and former portfolio holder for climate change) and Cllr Phil Stone (North Curry and Ruishton).

Cllr Smith-Roberts told the Local Democracy Reporting Service yesterday (Monday) that both remained party members despite resigning as councillors.

She said: “Cllr Pilkington has decided to step down as a councillor due to family reasons, but he remains a Lib Dem member.

“Cllr Stone said he was disappointed that the council did not move to a committee system (which was a democratic decision we took), and in light of recent planning decisions, with national government guidance, he felt he could no longer serve as a councillor, though he remains a Lib Dem.”

The third councillor, Cllr Marcus Kravis, is the other ward member for Old Cleeve and District, and will now sit as a 'LibDem independent'.

Cllr Smith-Roberts said he would be keeping his current portfolio of asset management and economic development, which includes the regeneration of the Coal Orchard and Firepool sites in Taunton.

She added: “Marcus remains committed as a Liberal Democrat and a councillor, but he has decided to step away from the party due to differences.

“He will keep his portfolio, as we have been impressed with what he has achieved, especially during the pandemic.”

This news comes less than two weeks after Cllr Smith-Roberts reshuffled her executive, leaving Mr Kravis as the only portfolio holder from the former West Somerset area.

The Lib Dems remain the largest individual party on the council – but now hold only 28 out of 59 seats despite their Trull by-election win.

The independent group now has 14 seats, followed by the Conservatives (ten), Labour (three) and the Greens (two), with two vacancies.

Cllr Smith-Roberts said she would not enter coalition talks with any of the other parties.

There will need to be by-elections to find replacements for Cllrs Pilkington and Stone.