A former mayor who switched political allegiances has defended an email which questioned the competence of his new party to run a council.

Coun Nick John, who currently serves Goring on Worthing Borough Council, jumped ship from the ruling Conservatives to join the Liberal Democrats.

But just weeks before changing sides he sent an email to Tory colleagues which was hardly flattering to the Lib Dems.

Coun John said the Lib Dems were "poor opposition" and he also cast doubt on the ability of their leader, coun Bob Smytherman, to take charge at the Town Hall.

The situation was further complicated by the fact that coun Smytherman is coun John's former brother-in-law.

The email, leaked to The Argus, said: "Dear all, getting the odd email here and there, I find it hard to understand how in the space of a few months we are losing direction.

"The group has a good blend of youth and experience. When I first joined I thought I had joined the local playgroup with so much infighting.

"The plain answer is this system is flawed, allowing very little debate.

"We are all on the council because we want to make a change and improve Worthing (think how it would be if Bobby got his hands on it.) "We have never been good at PR but now is our chance. We need a clear lead from the leader as it has gone very quiet.

"Now could be the time for change to make sure we don't lose Worthing to a poor opposition."

Coun John told The Argus: "It is not exactly very much is it. I think it is more critical of the Conservatives than it is of Bobby. I have known Bobby since I was six. We have said far worse things to each other. I don't see this as a major thing.

"I am a little bit sad that people are more interested in having a little dig."

Coun Smytherman also put a brave face on the apparent slap-down.

He said: "Thank you for this email from Nick when he was a loyal member of the Tory group. I agree that local politics at times is like a local play group and we all have a responsibility to make politics representative of the people that elect us.

"I am not sure what Nick meant by me getting 'my hands on Worthing'. Others must judge my leadership.

"On a personal note I have known Nick since I was six. I have also worked for Nick and we have had many differences, not just political.

"We have always stood by each other through good and bad times and I think of him not just as family but as a friend."