Dudley Council's Labour Leadership Could Face Challenge

Dudley Council's Labour leadership is set to face a challenge as its climbdown over controversial leisure centre plans was branded the final straw by opposition members.

UKIP group leader Councillor Paul Brothwood said he could no longer support the Labour group, which controls the authority but does not have an overall majority. He is now set for talks with the Conservatives, the second biggest party at the council house, about a potential change in leadership.

Councillor Brothwood said his party was prepared to reject Pete Lowe continuing as leader of the authority and suggested Tory leader Patrick Harley would be put forward instead. The move would need to get the backing of almost all Conservative and UKIP councillors at a formal vote in order to be passed.

Protests over the leadership of the council come amid a storm over plans for the borough's leisure centres - from which the council has now backed down.

Leading Labour councillors have insisted they are now committed to keeping three leisure centres open - in Dudley, Stourbridge and Halesowen - despite previously publishing proposals to close three and build two new facilities. Opposition councillors welcomed the U-turn but claim it shows Labour is no longer fit to continue running the authority.

Councillor Harley described the handling of the leisure centres situation as 'shambolic' at a meeting of the full council on Monday night - during which around 30 campaigners delighted in hearing three centres would continue to operate in the borough.

Unrest has been building for months as the parties have failed to see eye to eye on crucial decisions - such as the contentious issue of a council tax which was blocked by the opposition. Councillor Brothwood said:

"It is time the socialist grip on Dudley Council is brought to an end as soon as possible. I think it's time to pull the plug. We want to do whatever is best for the borough and at the moment they are not best for the borough.

"We have our AGM on May 18 when we will decide who we want to run the council and the way they have treated the Dudley borough we couldn't look to support them."

Labour's council deputy leader Judy Foster said:

"It's news to me. Usually the leader and myself speak to the various parties ahead of the AGMs and we will do that. If he is unhappy our door is open and he should come and speak to us."


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