FIVE councillors have broken away from the ruling group on Herefordshire Council over fears the new administration is opposed to building an eastern bypass.

Former Herefordshire Independents group leader Bob Matthews has formed a splinter group barely a week after the new council leader was elected.

He said several members of the new council were opposed to building any roads at all to reduce congestion in Hereford.

Coun Matthews said: “The eastern route would be cost effective, reduce congestion and most importantly pollution within the city.

“The last thing our hard-pressed local businesspeople need at the moment is uncertainty.

“Give them the infrastructure that is required, and we are confident they will deliver the growth and jobs which we so desperately need.

“All of the options have been repeatedly looked at by some top engineers over the years, and they have always supported an eastern route.”

He also said he disagreed with the makeup of the new cabinet and other key appointments but was overruled by the leader and previous colleagues.

“There has been far too much waste and incompetence during recent years, so by forming a new group we will be free to support what we feel is appropriate to move this county forward, and at the same time strongly oppose any policies that do not deliver long term value for money,” he said.

“I have already had a number of businessmen contact me, supporting our views on the sensitive infrastructure issue.”

Council leader David Hitchiner said no new decisions have been made around the Hereford bypass.

“As a new administration, it is right that we take some time to carefully consider and fully understand the proposed scheme before any decisions are made,” he said.

The changes mean the Conservatives are the largest group with 13 councillors, followed by the Herefordshire Independents on 10 and It’s Our County and Greens with seven each - the Liberal Democrats have six councillors and coun Matthews new group True Independents has five.

There are three non-aligned Independents, some of which, may soon join the Herefordshire Independents.

Tory deputy leader Nigel Shaw said his group was concerned that changes announced after the first meeting could affect the smooth running of the council.

“For the sake of the citizens of Herefordshire we hope that matters can be swiftly resolved,” he said.