AN EQUALITIES campaigner who quit York’s ruling Labour party over care cuts is to join the rival Liberal Democrats.

Lynn Jeffries became an independent councillor for Westfield after leaving Labour last August, but said she had now switched sides because her new party offered “the real alternative” to her old one.

The Lib Dems will now have the same number of councillors – nine – as the Conservatives, the official City of York Council opposition since 2011. Coun Jeffries left Labour following last year’s decision to withdraw community social care to 184 people, also criticising its handling of issues including the proposed sale of Union Terrace car park and Beckfield Lane tip’s closure. She also claimed Labour’s leadership stifled inter-party debate and ignored residents.

“When Labour closed Beckfield Lane and Burnholme Community College and cut adult social care, it was the Lib Dems who actually listened to residents and led the opposition, and they are also leading the fight against Labour’s plans to rip up the Green Belt (through sites for new homes under York’s Local Plan),” she said.

“Lib Dem campaigners in Westfield and elsewhere are the ones actually working hard for local residents. I feel joining the group is the best way for me to represent the people of Westfield and stand up for the rights of vulnerable people suffering the impact of Labour’s cuts. There is real value in being an independent councillor, but in Westfield I feel I can do much more with the Lib Dems behind me.”

New Lib Dem leader Keith Aspden said he was thrilled at Coun Jeffries’ decision. He said: “She took a brave and principled stand last year and has a proven track record as a diligent campaigner on equality issues, so her experience and insight on these matters will be invaluable to the group.

“She does an excellent job representing Westfield residents. I’m looking forward to working with her.”

Council leader James Alexander said: “I’m sure the Lib Dems have fully vetted Coun Jeffries on her suitability, but she doesn’t have a good track record of honouring her party allegiance - she has been Labour, independent, Lib Dem, and we aren’t even halfway through the term of this council.

"At some point, she must decide. I'm sure Coun Jeffries and the Lib Dems know what they are doing and I wish them well."