An Enfield councillor has quit Labour to join the Green Party, saying he had recently felt “restrained from championing the core needs of local residents”.

Cllr Charith Gunawardena, who represents Southgate, has become the borough’s first Green councillor – a move he described as “the best way to serve my constituents”.

He is the eighth councillor to either resign or defect from the Labour group during the past year.

In a statement, Cllr Gunawardena said the Labour administration had made “many irresponsible political choices”, warning of a lack of affordable homes in the borough and a projected £2 billion council debt pile.

“I will continue to serve Southgate, but now as a councillor representing the Green Party, whose policies for a sustainable society incorporate key principles to tackle the climate crisis and deliver social justice,” he said.

“These are things I campaigned for and will continue to defend on behalf of Enfield’s residents.”

Cllr Gunawardena said the borough needed to tackle the environmental crisis by offering “considered, meaningful and evidence-based responses and policies”.

In Southgate, he said residents had been raising concerns over issues such as “the deteriorating town centre, rising crime, fly-tipping” and “traffic congestion causing delays and air pollution”.

“Under these challenging circumstances, there is an urgent need for an inclusive political culture supporting open, honest and transparent policy discussions to reach solutions that benefit residents across the borough,” Cllr Gunawardena said.

“As a member of the Green Party, I will be better placed to scrutinise and challenge decisions that will have a lasting environmental and social impact in the borough for decades to come and defend processes essential for preserving strong local democracy.”

The Labour group’s majority on Enfield Council stands at 15 after Cllr Gunawardena’s move to the Greens – down from 29 following the local elections in 2018.

Five councillors have left the party to join opposition group Community First during the past 12 months.

Two Labour members, Vicki Pite and Bernadette Lappage, resigned from the council, triggering by-elections that were held earlier this month.

Cllr Pite’s former seat in Chase ward was won by the Tories following a campaign centred on the future of Whitewebbs Golf Course.

READ MORE: By-election boost for Tories dents Labour majority

The Green Party boosted its vote share in the three recent by-elections, which all saw swings away from Labour.

Sian Berry, Green Party co-leader and London Assembly Member, said: “I am thrilled to have Charith join our growing team of councillors across the country and in London.

“Greens across our city will benefit from his experience and enthusiasm, and we will support his efforts to win greater transparency in major developments and council scrutiny across all issues affecting our citizens.”

Cllr Gunawardena will also join the Community First group of councillors on Enfield Council.

Leader Cllr Dinah Barry said: “Community First is delighted that Cllr Charith Gunawardena, having left Labour and joined the Green Party, will sit in the council as a member of our group of independently minded councillors with socialist values.

“Cllr Gunawardena has worked hard to support his residents and the community in Southgate ward and has been fearless in his pursuit of openness about the council’s flagship Meridian Water project, which appears to be falling some distance short of the council’s stated aspirations.”

Labour council leader Cllr Nesil Caliskan commented: “Cllr Gunawardena represents a ward in Southgate and not Edmonton, which is where the Meridian Water development is happening. The scheme is delivering thousands of affordable homes for local residents and is widely celebrated by local residents who welcome the investment of this council-led scheme.

“I find his choice of political party odd, as this Labour administration is taking radical steps to tackle climate change.”

She added: “Over the past few days, we have seen from across the country that the Green Party and other smaller political parties have forged alliances with the Conservatives. It is another reminder that if residents want progressive politics, it is only the Labour Party that can be trusted to deliver for our communities.”