A Wigan councillor has dramatically defected to another party.
Ashton's Walter Carney was one of the founder Community Action Party councillors when the group dramatically first grabbed power to become the borough's official opposition in 2004, sweeping aside the established parties.
But today he confirmed his resignation to join the growing Independent group on the council.
The shock move means that the Conservatives remain the largest group challenging ruling Labour's dominance with 11 councillors, followed by the Independents.
It also means the CAP/Lib Dem 'Democratic Alliance' group has in the last 12 months plummeted from official opposition to the third smallest opposition group, with a remaining nine councillors.
The Conservatives regained the honour of leading the opposition after another CAP defection – Lowton's Ed Houlton – in the New Year.
Labour remain in control with 41 councillors. And, with no borough elections this year, that is unlikely to change.
Coun Carney, a former Ashton UDC councillor before the formation of
Metro borough in 1974, and with more than 40 years under his belt as a former council housing manager, today insisted that voters would see "no difference" following his controversial decision.
He said: "Nothing changes for the people of Ashton. I will be doing my very best for them as always.
"There is nothing sinister in this decision. I have fallen out a few times with the CAP leadership but mainly I just haven't been happy with CAP merging with the Liberals to form the Alliance.
"It is something I have been toying with for a while, I haven't been happy with the way it has been going and this has been known in the council."
His new group leader, Bryn Ward Coun Brian Merry, said they were delighted to welcome him to their group.
Independent leader Coun Merry said: "Walter tells me that he has felt like an independent councillor for a good few months, so he might as well join the Independents proper.
"Other people are talking to us about coming across but we are not interested in absorbing any particularly party or group. We only want true independents who will work for the electorate, not politicians.
"These are good times for us. When you look where we have come from in a short time – I just wish there were elections this year!"
Democratic Alliance leader Coun Paul Tushingham said: "We are always sorry when we lose a member, especially when there had been no dialogue to discuss whatever issues Coun Carney may have had.
"Community Action has worked very hard in Ashton since our initial election in 2004. Via these efforts in the Ashton Ward, Coun Carney was re-elected a few terms ago.
"He did say he wanted to remain loyal to the people of Ashton who voted him in on the strength of all that has been achieved for Ashton via the Community Action Party, but he has now chosen to go back on that and go Independent.
"Sad as this may be, this is Coun Carney's third change of party, as he was formerly a Labour councillor, and perhaps he may change again in the future.
"We wish him well in this, but now he needs to stand or fall on his own merits and work hard, like the Community Action Party has for the people of Ashton."