Councillors bring 'new energy' to Sandwell
The intervention of the Labour Party's national office in Sandwell has helped to "protect the party's integrity" in the borough, it has been claimed.
Labour's ruling National Executive Committee has taken an active role in Sandwell in recent months, controlling the selection process for the local elections and overseeing disciplinary matters.
The move has been widely criticised, with allies of West Bromwich East MP and Labour deputy leader Tom Watson claiming hard-left supporters of Jeremy Corbyn had taken over Sandwell.
But borough Labour group secretary Councillor Liam Preece welcomed the involvement of party bosses – as he insisted that a number of newly elected councillors would bring "a new energy" that would take Sandwell forward.
The Charlemont with Grove Vale councillor , said: "I accept that there is some frustration among members at the decision that has been made regarding the governance of the group.
"But this has happened in order to address the fact that a number of serious allegations have been made among members. The national party has taken the necessary steps to protect the party's integrity in Sandwell.
"Hopefully we can return to normal order sometime soon. I am confident that this group is capable of doing that.
"There is a new energy in the party to take Sandwell forward."
A total of 11 new councillors were elected at last week's local elections, including Manjit Singh Gill in Smethwick, Zahir Hussain in Soho and Victoria, Richard Jones in Old Warley, Richard McVittie in Newton and Ahmad Boston, who won former council leader Steve Eling's old seat in Abbey.
But despite holding all 72 seats on the council after the elections, Sandwell's Labour group remains mired in controversy.
Former council leader Steve Eling stood down after being suspended from the party after a complaint, and his replacement Steve Trow lasted just two months before quitting.
Long-serving councillor Bob Edwards is under investigation over social media posts, while Cradley Heath and Old Hill councillor Caroline White is thought to have left the party after she was found to have campaigned for former Labour councillor Dave Hosell, who stood as an independent for Newton.
Labour's rules prohibit members from supporting opposition candidates.
The group will elect a new leadership team at its AGM on Monday night, with the new Labour leader officially named the authority's leader at a full council meeting on May 21.
Previous contender Councillor Yvonne Davies is thought to be keen on the top job.