Walsall Council Lib Dems are backing Labour

Liberal Democrats on Walsall Council are backing the ruling Labour group ahead of a crunch vote to decide who will run the town hall.

Walsall Council Lib Dems are backing Labour

It comes after the local elections left none of the main parties with a clear majority.

The Conservatives have 25 out of 60 seats and have set their sights on wresting back control after Labour lost four seats in the polls, leaving them with a slim majority of 27.

Both of the main parties said they were talking to the smaller groups in a bid for control.

Councillor Ian Shires - one of the two Lib Dems holding seats - was, until last August when Labour took control, in a coalition leadership with the Tories under Councillor Mike Bird.

Now, the Lib Dems say with Prime Minister David Cameron in Downing Street they want to see Labour retain control of the council house.

Councillor Shires said: "I have not fallen out with Mike Bird, but as neither of the two main parties have an overall majority then the status quo should remain. This is the position we held in May last year after the previous elections. So we cannot support the resolution tabled for next week that the current leader Sean Coughlan should be removed and replaced with Mike Bird. Therefore, we are not supporting a change.

"We are also concerned that that the parliamentary vote in Walsall did not change and the fact that Labour's majorities went up in the general election. We have to look at the bigger picture.

"We don't like the idea of a Tory central government that is no longer contained by the Lib Dems in coalition. They say they want to take an extra £12 billion out of benefits, but have only given partial details about this. Half of benefits go to pensioners, so then you are left with hitting child benefits, child tax credit and disability benefits. Plus they have made promises amounting to £80bn that have to be funded from somewhere. We all know what will happen, it will be down to local authorities to pick up the tab."

He added that the other groups comprising three for UKIP, two independents and one the outgoing mayor Councillor Pete Smith for Democratic Labour, should make their choice carefully.

Last year, Councillor Smith, of Blakenall ward, was a kingmaker voting to support Labour taking control of the council, but has since said he regretted his support and claimed he has had no discussion with Councillor Coughlan over the situation.

Councillor Smith said: "Not only have I had no phone call or communication from the leader, I now hear that he has gone on holiday. Surely not a wise move on the part of a leader, where it is touch and go as to whether he retains control in the crucial council AGM meeting on June 3. This is not a good move for someone who is seeking to win friends."

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