Popular Solihull councillor Jim Ryan - a former deputy leader of the borough's Labour Group - has defected to the Conservative Party.

Coun Ryan will stand for the Tories in the Bickenhill ward that he has represented for 28 years in May's local elections.

He rose to the deputy leadership of the Labour Group, but left in 2004 following a disagreement which he claims centred on opposition to his plans for a zero per cent council tax increase in the borough.

Coun Ryan has been a strong campaigner against the expansion of Birmingham International Airport and for environmental issues in Solihull.

He said: "I decided it was time to join the Conservatives because I agree with David Cameron's views on the environment and crime. I also feel that the Labour Party is finished. It is history.

"My integrity is clear. I have always been up front with the people of Solihull and I am up front now in joining the Conservative party."

Coun Ryan said he found it increasingly difficult to represent his Bickenhill ward as an independent councillor.

The former Land Rover shop steward also praised the work of current Solihull council leader Ken Meeson (Con Dorridge & Hockley Heath) and Meriden Tory MP Caroline Spelman.

The Tories currently rule Solihull as a minority party with 24 councillors. The Liberal Democrats have 18 seats and Labour seven. There is also an independent and a BNP member on the council.