Three councillors have broken with Labour to become independents.

Worthing councillors Carl Walker (Selden), Hilary Schan (Tarring) and Margaret Howard (Broadwater) said they could no longer support national Labour and have now formed Worthing Community Independents.

Carl Walker, who was deputy leader of the Labour-run council, said he was “incredibly proud” of what the council has achieved “in helping turn Worthing Council red, our amazing community activism and the fantastic work we’ve all done as Worthing’s first ever Labour council”.

But, he said, he believed “the current national two-party Labour system is broken”.

“The national Labour Party stands in direct contradiction to my personal and political values and no longer feel that I can represent it in good conscience,” he said in a statement.

He criticised the party’s green policy, its stance on the conflict in Gaza, its “refusal to reverse the two child benefit cap” and the party’s “commitment to the continued privatisation of the NHS”.

In a joint statement the councillors said the decision came after “many months of careful consideration”.

It follows Labour’s success at the recent local elections where it gained control of Adur District Council for the first time and strengthened majorities in Worthing and Crawley.

“As local councillors, we have consistently argued for vital investment in council funding, required to end the housing crisis, save our public services and support those struggling through the current cost of living crisis,” they said.

“Given the refusal of the Labour Party to commit to this, we no longer feel able to represent our residents as members of a party that has no intention of providing what you tell us you need.

“The national Labour Party has committed to maintaining the two-child benefit cap while not reinstating the cap on bankers' bonuses. We don’t believe such policies reflect Labour values and will do significant harm to many residents in our town.”

They warned that if the party does not “commit to a progressive policy platform and adequate investment in local government and public services”, it will be “cosigning us all to another five years of financial hardship”.

They said they will continue to work with their Labour colleagues on the council to deliver the “progressive” manifesto that the council stood on in 2022 when the party gained control of Worthing Borough Council for the first time.

The trio’s departure does not affect Labour’s control of the council with 23 seats out of 37.

Councillor Beccy Cooper, leader of Worthing Borough Council, said: "It is sad that a small number of councillors have decided to leave the Labour Group but we will continue to focus on being a council for the community that delivers the services and improvements that will allow all our residents to thrive."

Councillor Kevin Jenkins, leader of Worthing Conservatives, said the split was “no surprise”.

“The announcement that Cllrs Walker, Howard and Schan have resigned from the Labour Party and set themselves up as independent councillors is of little surprise to many and it may be that others from the Labour group will at some point follow them,” he said.

“The differing political ideologies and factions within the Labour group have been there for all to see since day one of their administration and to many it was only a matter of time before this split occurred.”

He questioned whether the recent election result would have been different had the councillors resigned prior to voters heading to the polls.

“How much has their endorsement, as existing Labour councillors, encouraged voters and how would that have differed if the truth had been out there before the election?” he said.

“In their own ward areas this may have had an impact on voters’ intentions and may have produced a different election result, we will never know.”

Cllr Schan was co-chairwoman of left-wing Labour campaign group Momentum.

A spokesman from Momentum: “As Hilary leaves Momentum, we'd like to place on record our thanks for her leadership and dedicated service to our movement.

“It is a sad state of affairs for Keir Starmer's Labour Party when committed activists like Hilary, who work so hard to deliver progressive change for their communities, no longer feel it is the place for them.

“Momentum remains focused on organising for a democratic Labour party which views its members and core voters as an asset, not an inconvenience. We will keep campaigning for real Labour policies which deliver the country the transformative change it is crying out for, instead of constant U-turns and corporate-friendly policies."

The Labour Party was contacted for comment.