THURROCK councillors said they will defy council wishes to maintain around 20 flags flying from lampposts in several towns, despite council promises to remove them.

The flags, put in up in remembrance of a local fallen soldier last month, came following a campaign by the Tim Aker Foundation and Nicky Mason Charity.

Grays, Aveley, Tilbury, South Ockendon and Stifford Clays all put up the flags in honour of Aveley soldier Nicky Mason, who in 2008 died in battle.

The council, which gave permission to keep the flags flying in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday, on Friday ordered them down.

Ukip MEP Tim Aker, who spearheaded the campaign, said the decision defies public wishes, of whom showed overwhelming support for the campaign.

He also took to Twitter in protest against the decision, writing: “Thurrock Council want to take down our flags. We will keep them up. Even if they take them down. Are you with us?”

Speaking to the Gazette, he said: “This feels like a personal attack from the council – I don’t know what I’ve done to upset someone.

“People from all around the borough have shown tremendous support for the flags, people from all ethnicity.”

Jack Duffin, Thurrock Ukip councillor added on Facebook: “I am embarrassed to be a councillor in Thurrock Council while we have an officer class who hate this country.

“Time for them to apologise or resign.”

Public opinion surrounding the flags, which cost between £600 - £800 to put up, is divided.

David Lacey is a “non-political” 44 year-old carer who lives in Badgers Dene, Grays – a stone’s throw from the flags.

He said: “I’m not political, but I don’t see anything wrong with the flags.

“When people talk about Scottish nationalism it’s fine, but when people talk about English nationalism people think it’s right wing.”

IT worker Olu Ajedi, 46, who lives in Crammavill Street, Stifford Clays, added: “I’m Muslim and I don’t see any problem with a country being proud of its nationality and showing that.

“But if the council said they can be kept in the lead up to Remembrance Day and that date has gone – it’s hardly surprising they want them down.

“Surely it would be the same rules for anyone else who put the flag up?”

Thurrock Council said its decision to remove the flags comes after its requests for their removal fell on deaf ears. 

A spokesman added: "The Council has agreed to pay for the taking down of these flags, along with any others which have fallen outside the agreed display date and/or become damaged or torn, and will store the flags safely, until the applicants advises differently."

She maintained the council is following pre-agreed planning rules.