THREE opposition councillors have founded a new party just weeks before the local council elections.
The new Community Performance First Party has been legally registered with the London-based Electoral Commission.
The three names on the registration forms are sitting Community Action Party councillors Gary Wilkes, the party's former deputy leader, Brian Merry, who has been registered as leader of the new party, and Claire Daington.
Ashton councillor Daington insisted that she and councillor Merry, who represents Bryn, would stand for the Community Action Party at the election.
Coun Wilkes's seat is not up for re-election this year. He also represents Bryn.
The move appeared to have taken most of the rest of the Community Action Party by surprise.
Party leader Coun Peter Franzen said yesterday morning: "I know nothing at all about this and I will look into it immediately."
But by the afternoon, the party had issued an official statement suggesting the new organisation was merely "closing a loophole."
Coun Merry said: "The registering of a political party under the name of Community Performance First has been carried out to simply prevent anyone else from registering and using that name.
"The three Community Action Party Councillors who are named on the registration document – Coun Gary Wilkes, Coun Claire Daington and myself – have always been and will remain as Community Action Party councillors and have no intention of splitting from the Community Action Party.
"We are gearing ourselves up for another successful election campaign when once again the Labour Party majority will be reduced for the good of this town.
"If any voters have any concerns about this they should speak to their local Community Action Party councillor."
The Community Action Party, which currently has 18 councillors compared with the Lib Dems' eight and the Conservatives' seven, is a Wigan political success story.
With a mix of grassroots politics and headline-grabbing campaigns, it has risen from nowhere to become official opposition in just over four years.
Its candidates go into the elections with high hopes of winning enough new seats to wrestle control of the Metro from Labour, in coalition with the Tories and Lib Dems.