DISAPPOINTED: Malcolm Prowse leaves the Lib Dems.
A DYED-in-the-wool Liberal has abandoned his party on the eve of local elections, saying he is "heartbroken" by the way the coalition government is damaging the country.
Bratton Fleming member Malcolm Prowse will stand as an independent in the May poll.
Conservative Gordon Cumming and Green Party contender Ian Godfrey will also try to win the seat. No Lib Dem will stand against them.
Mr Prowse told the Journal: "I'm not happy with some of the things the coalition government has done, particularly to local government.
"I'm also not very happy about the proposals for health reforms.
He said financial cuts were destroying years of good local work.
"It's heartbreaking for me," he said. "Telling my parish council was the most difficult thing I have done.
"But it's not me that has changed. It's the party nationally which has changed its position."
Mr Prowse has been a key figure in local politics for decades and is steeped in Liberal history.
His mother, Lilian, was the election agent for Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe and his father, Jack, was a senior member of the North Devon Liberal Association.
He was thought to be the youngest constituency agent in the country in 1974 when, at the age of 21, he took the role for the Liberals in West Devon.
He became a Lib Dem district councillor in 1987 and spent 16 years as the leader of North Devon Council. That ended when the Conservatives took control in 2007.
By April 2009 he had become scathing of the Conservatives after they excluded non-Tories from positions of power.
Mr Prowse has been critical of recent council decisions on a range of matters, including Tesco and budgeting.
Last year he lost his place as the local leader of the Lib Dems, when fellow veteran Brian Greenslade was given the role.
Landkey, Swimbridge and Taw member Dave Butt has also abandoned the Lib Dems, as has Combe Martin councillor Yvette Gubb, who will stand as an independent.
Mr Butt, a former deputy-headteacher who lives in Pilton, has been a Lib Dem district councillor since 1987.
At one time he was the deputy-leader of the authority, working with Mr Prowse.
He will not stand because he is also severely disillusioned with the national party.
He disagreed with many decisions made by the government, particularly the move to increase tuition fees.
He said: "I'm disappointed with party politics, which is not about local things. I also think it's nonsense to have party politics at district level. I've had good working relationships with Conservatives.
"I think it would be dishonest to stand on a party ticket that I don't believe in."
North Devon MP Nick Harvey said it was disappointing to see people who had been Liberals for many years not stand for re-election but he did not see it as a sign of wider malaise.
See Comment – page 43.