All three Conservative councillors for Rainham and Wennington have defected and joined the Havering Residents’ Association (HRA) in a shock move bolstering the strength of the administration.

The councillors in question - Sue Ospreay, Jacqueline McArdle and Sarah Edwards - have now had all of their profiles updated on Havering Council website, formalising their switch.

On why she decided to leave, Cllr Ospreay said as new councillors, and having to deal with issues in their ward such as the Wennington fire and the ongoing Launders Lane problems, she felt they were not getting enough support from their Conservative peers.

“It just became really obvious to me that we were in the deep end without our arm bands," she said. "We have had no mentoring and no help."

Romford Recorder: Cllr Sue OspreayCllr Sue Ospreay (Image: Archant)

This contrasted with the advice and aid they were getting from the HRA, she claimed, including multiple HRA councillors helping with a sale organised to support Wennington residents.

While noting there are some “absolutely lovely people in the Conservatives”, Cllr Ospreay said: “I have jumped ship because I want to do the best job I can possibly do for Rainham.”

Cllr McArdle reiterated Cllr Ospreay’s take, describing how “let down” she felt after what she perceived as a lack of support from the Conservatives in response to the Wennington fire.

She said: “We are very much community champions with a hands-on approach, very much like the HRAs.”

A statement from the HRA states: “The HRA welcomes the three Rainham councillors, because we know they are really RA-minded, and we welcome them home.”

The move reduces the principal opposition Conservative group to 20 members. The HRA is now at 22, making it the largest party in Havering, though still below the threshold required to form a majority.

Conservative leader Damian White, who was narrowly re-elected earlier this year, said: “They believe [this is] the best way for them to represent their ward, and the Conservative group wishes them the best of luck in their endeavours.”

Asked whether there was the potential for another Tory leadership vote in Havering, he said it is “always a possibility” if there is enough appetite, though nothing has been raised yet.

Cllr Keith Darvill, leader of the Labour group which made a deal to form the administration with the HRA after the election in May, told the Recorder the party "welcomes their [new HRA councillors] support”, adding the potential effect on the Conservatives will be “interesting”.

Cllr Edwards has also been approached for comment.