Simmering tensions within Bradford Council’s Conservative group came to the surface last night when a long-serving Tory councillor resigned from the group and hit out at its current leader.

Councillor Anne Hawkesworth, who was a Conservative group leader until 2011, has become the latest councillor from the Ilkley area to go independent.

The move further fragments the political composition of Bradford Council, where the leading Labour group is three seats short of an overall majority.

The Tory group now controls 23 of the 90 seats to Labour’s 43.

Coun Hawkesworth, who has represented Ilkley for more than 20 years, cited “dismay” with the leadership style of Tory group leader, Councillor Glen Miller (Con, Worth Valley), and concerns about the Government’s planning policies which she fears will lead to green areas covered with houses.

She has been accepted by former Conservative councillors, Adrian Naylor (Craven) and Chris Greaves (Wharfedale) on the Council political group they formed called The Independents.

Coun Hawkesworth pledged to remain a member of the Tories nationally and said she would vote in support of “traditional Conservative values”.

In a statement, she said: “From now on I shall sit on the Council as an Independent where I shall be free from attempts to silence my protests over ministers’ proposals by use of the ‘whip’. I’m sure I can do better for my ward as an Independent than as a member of the Conservative group under Councillor Miller’s leadership.”

Coun Hawkesworth, of Ben Rhydding, was first elected to Bradford Council in 1990. She served as the Conservative group’s chief whip from 1992 to 2010. She became group leader in 2011 but was defeated by Coun Miller in May that year. She was the environment portfolio holder on the Council’s executive for nine years.

Coun Miller said: “This comes as a surprise to me in one sense as Coun Hawkesworth has not taken the time to inform either myself as the leader of the Conservative group or my colleague the chief whip, prior to contacting the local press.

“In another sense however it is not a surprise as, since losing the position of leader of the conservative group, Anne has played very little part in the group and has even been unsupportive of the Conservative Group in Council meetings whilst publicly being critical of national Conservative Party policies without forewarning colleagues and the whips. In light of Coun Hawkesworth’s actions since her loss of the Conservative group leadership and her refusal to meet up with the current leadership, it was possible that she may have been suspended from the group in due course.

“I wish Anne well in her political endeavours.”