The most outspoken member of Sutton Council is retiring from local politics to escape the climate of “general bitchiness”.

Councillor David Pickles, 53, courted controversy with anti-immigration letters to the Sutton Guardian after defecting to Ukip last year.

Now he has provoked a new storm by deciding to quit at the 2010 borough elections because meetings are being reduced to a “bun fight”.

The former Conservative member for Belmont claimed to be delaying his resignation only to spare taxpayers the £350,000 cost of a by-election.

In typically forthright fashion, he said: “The fire has gone from my belly.

“Over the years I think the standard of local politics generally has degenerated into a bunfight.

“The last two or three council meetings have literally descended into a circus, with name calling, backstabbing and general bitchiness behind the scenes.

“There are some councillors who, quite frankly, are way beyond their sell-by date and have quite literally gone stale.

“For some, the only attraction of fighting to regain their seats is the prospect of a large juicy pension.

“The moribund state of our borough, I think, reflects the general way of thinking.”

Coun Pickles turned to political activism in the 1970s and has been sitting on the council for six years.

His former Tory colleagues branded him “inflammatory” when he called for an end to unlimited immigration.

Even his retirement date has prompted a political furore.

A political source said: “Obviously losing the fire in his belly won’t stop Coun Pickles hanging on the council for dear life until May 2010, by which time he would have trousered about £17,000 in members’ allowances.

“Calling a by-election would be lot cheaper – he should call one now.”