Lib Dems and Labour on the verge of deal to take over Walsall Council
Labour and the Lib Dems are today on the verge of reaching an agreement to run Walsall Council, the Express & Star can reveal.
The coalition would mean the seven libraries in the borough facing the axe will be saved, while the Citizens Advice Bureau in Walsall could also get a reprieve.
An agreement has been struck between Labour leader Councillor Sean Coughlan and Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Ian Shires, with the Walsall Labour party set to sign off on the coalition tonight. A formal announcement will be made tomorrow morning. Despite the reprieve for the libraries, council tax will still rise by 3.99 per cent and £29 million of savings still need to be found this financial year.
Councillor Coughlan, who ran Walsall Council briefly in 2014 with his Labour group, told the Express & Star that it was just a matter of 'crossing the Is and dotting the Ts' when it came to a reaching an official agreement.
He said: "Talks went well last week. Me and Ian have got a really good rapport and we have had over the past couple of years as the Lib Dems have supported us.
"I will be making some positive recommendations to the Labour group and I am confident in the agreement that I will be taking to the group. It is a matter of crossing the Is and dotting the Ts.
"I have said for a while now that me and Ian agree on the same things. I came into local politics to influence decisions and taking control of the council will be a massive part of that."
Talking about how he would run the council, Councillor Coughlan added: "I don't think it will be much different from last time we were in power. We will be about helping the most vulnerable in society and the Liberal Democrats talk the same as us. We will be putting people first and ensuring we get the best for our community."
The Lib Dems and Labour reached an agreement earlier this year when they put forward an alternative budget at the budget meeting in February.
Councillor Shires said any changes made to the budget the two groups put forward would be 'positive' confirming that Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Rushall, South Walsall, Walsall Wood and Pleck libraries would all be kept open under the new administration. The budget put forward back in February also includes plans to not scrap the grant to the Citizens Advice Bureau.
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