UKIP bosses say they deliberately chose not to field candidates in Oldham at this year’s local elections because they instead want to focus on ‘little victories’.

A top party official said members were advised to make their ‘goals achievable’ when deciding which seats to contest across the region at the May 3 election.

Once a key election target, UKIP will be a no-show at the Oldham count at the Queen Elizabeth Hall tonight after the party decided not to field a single candidate in the borough.

John Kelly, regional organiser for the party in the north west, said that members have instead been supporting their seven Rochdale candidates, pitching with leafleting and canvassing duties.

He said: “The reason Oldham is without candidates this election is down to choice, UKIP’s branch structure means, as many of our leaflets say, local candidates are not whipped.

“They are in fact encouraged to look closely at local issues and fight battles they can potentially win.

“As regional organiser I have encouraged all the branch chairs in the north west to focus on making their goals achievable.”

This year the party’s Cheshire branches have been involved in helping to campaign in Bolton, where one of their four elected councillors is fighting to retai