LABOUR councillor Paul Orrett has hit out at a former party member who has switched allegiance to the Green Party.

Welwyn Hatfield district councillor Jill Weston, who represents Howlands ward, resigned from the Labour Party last week but has agreed to stay on the council as a representative of the Green Party.

Councillor Weston said she had been thinking about the move for some time after becoming disillusioned with the national policy of the Labour Party.

Earlier this year Councillor Weston fell out with members of the Labour Party when she called on Prime Minister Tony Blair to resign over the Iraq war.

She added: "This had nothing to do with my relationship with the Labour group. It was to do with the national policy which I felt was moving away from my own beliefs as a keen environmentalist and pacifist.

"The policies of the Green Party coincide with where I am coming from.

"I am still totally supportive of what the Labour Party is trying to achieve on the local council.

"I was voted in as a Labour councillor, but am a representative of everyone in my ward and I will still be helping people to the best of my ability."

But the news has angered former Labour leader Paul Orrett who says the move has deprived local people of their political choice.

Councillor Orrett, who still serves on Welwyn Hatfield Council as a representative of Haldens ward, said: "If she had stood as a Green she would not have been elected. No doubt many people in Howlands will think that she should resign and allow them to elect a councillor of the colour they want be that red, green or blue.

"The people of Howlands voted for a Labour councillor not a Green. By resigning Jill Weston has deprived local people of their political choice.

"Had she resigned a year ago this might make sense as an issue of conscience. To resign now when the rest of the world realises that nation-building not futile gestures is what Iraq needs seems daft in the extreme.

"The point of being able to claim it is a matter of conscience has long since gone."

Mr Marc Scheiman, Green Party activist for Hertfordshire, said he welcomed the news of Ms Weston's defection.

He added: "She has now found a friendly home. It is not easy coming from one of the main parties to a smaller one, but it is a choice on conscience and we will give her all our support."

Ms Weston joined the Labour Party in 1985 and became a councillor in 1991. She said she plans to stand in the next local election as a Green Party member and added: "It will be up to the people who they want on the council."