UKIP has announced it will contest most of the 72 seats at North Yorkshire County Council, with a former Tory councillor and an acclaimed novelist among its new candidates.

Former Richmondshire Conservative councillor Stephanie Todd announced today (WEDNESDAY) that she had defected to UKIP because she wanted to be with a party which “listened to people”.

Scarborough gothic horror novelist GP Taylor will also contest the North Yorkshire county council elections in May for UKIP.

Other UKIP candidates include Scarborough Council independent members Sam Cross and Mick Jay-Hanmer, and Scarborough novelists Mark Harland and Heath Samples.

Councillor Todd, a 52-year-old single mum and self-employed florist, who has represented Hipswell on Richmondshire District Council since 2009, broke her defection news at a press conference in Scarborough - before telling her former Tory colleagues.

She said: “I want to be part of a party which is supporting this country and its people and a party which actually listens to the people and takes notice of their concerns.”

She added: “It was not without some soul searching that I came to my decision to leave the Conservative Party and the friends I made at the council.

“All the things that drew me to the Conservative Party now draw me to UKIP. A clear simple message, standing up for Middle England and our traditional way of life."

Coun Todd, who will contest the Catterick Bridge seat, will remain on Richmondshire Council as a UKIP member.

Mr Taylor, a former vicar who lives in Scarborough, said: “I was a Conservative supporter and have donated money to them but I now believe they are out of touch with people.”

UKIP has never previously had candidates standing in the North Yorkshire county council elections.

Godfrey Bloom, MEP for Yorkshire and North Lincolnshire, said: “This is fantastic news and shows what I have always known - that we are the way forward for our country.”

Coun Fleur Butler, leader of Tory group at Richmondshire Council, confirmed she had not been aware of the defection before being contacted by The Northern Echo.