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Sandwell Council leader Steve Eling resigns after Labour party suspension

By Richard Guttridge | Sandwell | Politics | Published: | Last Updated:

The leader of Sandwell council has quit ahead of a no confidence vote.

Steve Eling has resigned as Sandwell Council leader

Steve Eling has decided to stand down rather than be forced out next month.

It comes after Labour councillors chose Steve Trow to head their group following Councillor Eling’s suspension from the party last month.

Councillor Eling, who had led the council since the death of Darren Cooper in 2016, previously refused to relinquish the role as the authority’s most senior politician despite calls for him to go by local Conservative MP James Morris.

But following the news that the council’s Labour group would seek to replace as him as council leader at meeting in March, he officially resigned yesterday afternoon.

Steve Trow, inset, is the new interim leader of the controlling Labour group at Sandwell Council

His deputy, Councillor Syeda Khatun, will take over as interim leader until full council meeting in March.

In a brief email announcing his decision to all Labour councillors, Councillor Eling said: “In view of the current situation, I have decided to step down from the position of leader of the council.

“Councillor Steve Trow is set to be elected as leader at the next meeting of the council.

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"In the interim, Councillor Syeda Khatun will take on the leader’s duties as deputy leader.”

Investigation

Councillor Eling’s party membership was suspended by Labour’s national executive committee after it launched an internal investigation following a complaint against him – the details of which he says he has been given no details of.

Earlier this week he said it was "a knife in the back".

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Following his resignation, Jan Britton, Chief Executive of Sandwell Council, said: “Councillor Steve Eling has stepped down as council leader with immediate effect.

“A new leader will be formally elected by majority vote at the next scheduled Full Council meeting on Tuesday, March 5 at 6pm.

“In the interim period, the Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Syeda Khatun, will undertake the duties and responsibilities of the Leader of the Council in addition to her existing responsibilities. The roles of existing cabinet members and their portfolios will remain unaffected.”

'Protection in the face of austerity'

In his email to Labour councillors, Councillor Eling attached a more detailed statement which he asked to be reproduced in full.

In it he said: “What the people of Sandwell have seen under my leadership of the council is the protection of services in the face of austerity. All our libraries and our children’s centres are still open.

"We have new leisure centres, the bins get emptied every week and garden waste collection is free.

"We look after the most vulnerable in our society and the elderly.

"I have a well regarded track record of working to bring our communities together, engaging with our workforce and trade unions. The Labour Party should be celebrating our successes.

“We have had to deal with some very difficult issues on poor conduct and wrongdoing through the council’s standards process showing the community that we will tackle wrongdoing when it is there.

"Our approach has been upheld by the courts. All of this has been evidenced recently by an independent review by the Local Government Association of the council, commending our leadership and achievements on all of these key issues.

“I have made a few enemies in the process, but all my critics can throw at me is personal abuse and often malicious complaints."

Richard Guttridge

By Richard Guttridge
Investigations Editor - @RichG_star

Investigations Editor for the Express & Star.

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