UKIP’s leader in Dudley and Halesowen believes the party can become at least the official opposition in the forthcoming borough council elections.

Branch chairman Bill Etheridge made the bold claim despite his party currently not having a single councillor on Dudley Council.

The right-wing organisation, which has gathered momentum nationally with its views on issues such as immigration, plans to field candidates in all 24 wards when voters go to the polls on May 22.

UKIP lost its sole councillor Malcolm Davis when his North Dudley ward of St James was won by Labour in 2012.

Despite fielding candidates in all but two wards, the party lagged well behind polling 11,366 votes in that election compared to the Conservatives 25,045 votes and Labour’s 34,429.

But a buoyant Mr Etheridge said the party was gaining both supporters and would-be candidates from both Labour and the Conservatives.

He said: “We are looking to take enough seats at the council elections to become at least the official opposition. We plan to change the political map in Dudley. It’s a very exciting time.”

Mr Etheridge believes his party can take between seven and ten wards and said they have a surplus of people offering to stand as candidates.

Former Lye councillor Adrian Turner has become the latest high-profile addition to the party.

Wordsley businessman Paul Brothwood, aged 30, has also recently been confirmed as a candidate for Wordsley in the local election.