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Conservatives officially back in control of Walsall Council

Walsall Council is back under the control of the Conservatives three weeks after they came one short of a majority in the local elections.

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Conservative councillors Steve Craddock, left, and mayor Marco Longhi celebrate the local election results earlier this month

The Mayor of Walsall, Councillor Marco Longhi, used his casting vote at tonight's AGM to make the Conservatives the majority party in the borough.

It comes just two days after he controversially re-elected himself to serve a second term as Walsall's mayor for the first time since the Second World War.

Councillors were called on to consider removing Labour's Councillor Sean Coughlan as council leader and instead appoint the Conservative group leader Councillor Mike Bird.

Conservative councillor Marco Longhi is serving a second term as mayor

The council chamber was split 30-30 with the casting vote falling on Councillor Longhi, who ensured the Conservatives took control.

Speaking at tonight's meeting, he said: "I choose to use my vote in favour of the motion."

During Monday's fiery meeting, Councillor Longhi voted to continue as mayor for 2018/19 and ensured the balance of power was tipped in the direction of the Tories.

Conservative group leader Mike Bird will now lead the council

It was the first time a Walsall Council mayor had been appointed to serve two consecutive terms since the Second World War.

Mayors usually serve a one-year term, with their replacements chosen from the longest-serving councillors who are yet to serve as mayor.

Earlier this month, the Conservatives came within one seat of overall control when they gained five wards in the local elections to bring their total to 30.

But Labour, who ended the elections with 26 seats after losing two wards, united with former Labour-turned-independent councillors Paul Bott and Chris Bott, as well as Lib Dems Ian Shires and Dan Barker, with the intention of forming a coalition..

Paul Bott was expected to be hailed as the new mayor, allowing him to use his casting vote to ensure Labour remained in control.

But a motion was put forward by Tory leader Mike Bird to block the process and ensure his party took control, in a move he claimed had not happened since the Second World War.

The support for Councillor Bott and Councillor Longhi was equally divided – with the latter using the mayor's casting vote to back himself.

The council had been under no overall control since 2011.