A PROMINENT independent councillor has joined the Conservatives.

The move by Tadley councillor David Leeks is the biggest shock to emerge from the publication of candidates standing for election to Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council.

Fifty-two-year-old Cllr Leeks' switch to the Tories came just a day after he voted against their proposal to scrap community wardens.

He said: "My disability has become more severe over the years and I have found that I do need help.

"Rather than pack up and allow the area to lose the benefit of my knowledge, I have decided to join a party."

The councillor, who has represented Tadley for 13 years, said the Tories were "the nearest to my own views" and an election was the best time to switch.

Conservative deputy leader Cllr Andrew Finney welcomed Cllr Leeks' conversion, saying: "David's always shared many of our views and I'm sure it's good for the people of Tadley South."

The other big surprise among the list of candidates standing was the return to borough politics of two former high-profile figures.

Basingstoke North West county councillor Stephen Reid, 56 - a former Conservative borough council leader for two spells in the late 1980s and early 1990s - has put himself forward for the Buckskin ward.

He said: "I think we need a strong voice in the county and the borough to defend the interests of the wards to the west of Basingstoke - and Buckskin is one of those."

Former Labour leader David Potter, 64, is returning to borough politics by standing in Grove.

He said: "I'm back in Basingstoke and want to make a contribution again, if I can, to the local Labour group."

Two councillors not standing again are Oakley and North Waltham councillor Gwen Richardson and Eastrop councillor Erica Shaw, 44.

Cllr Shaw, whose husband John is a fellow councillor, said: "I'm having a break from council duties. I'm going to take it easier and spend a bit more time on other things, such as family commitments."

Cllr Richardson, 83, said: "I decided that 16 years is long enough. I have enjoyed it.

"I would go on if I was younger, but I feel it's time to let someone else do it."

She said the highlight of her time on the council was her year as mayor in 2004/2005, and she was proud to have played a part in the Save Oakley Village Action Group.

A contender for her seat is Cllr Finney, who is seeking nomination there, rather than in his current Winklebury ward.

The boundary changes have created a situation that puts the whole council up for election this year and have reduced the number of seats in Winklebury by one.

Cllr Finney said: "We have three Conservative members in Winklebury working hard, so someone had to move or stand down."