A COALITION has been formed by Liberal Democrat councillors to include a member suspended from the party while he faces serious charges.

Ryan Hope, who represents Westham North ward on Weymouth Borough Council, is due to stand trial in April accused of rape and sexual assault.

Mr Hope, 22, of Norfolk Road, denies all charges.

He was suspended from the Liberal Democrat party last month after intervention from leader Nick Clegg, who criticised the local party for making a ‘very serious mistake’ in failing to notify the leadership about the charges.

The local Liberal Democrat party has now set up the Coalition of Liberal Democrats and Allies to protect Mr Hope's place on council committees.

Mr Hope is currently sitting as an Independent on the borough council.

Local Liberal Democrat leader councillor Ian Roebuck said: “For the purposes of determining committee allocations the Liberal Democrat Group have unanimously agreed to formalise a Coalition of Liberal Democrats and Allies which we have all, collectively and individually, invited Ryan to join. He has accepted.

“This protects his place on council committees in the face of an attempt by the Labour Group to have these places reallocated with Ryan treated as an individual unaligned member with minimal rights.”

The Liberal Democrat party at national level is ‘assessing the situation’ to see if it will take action.