Express & Star

Sandwell has another Lib Dem councillor after mayor's partner quits Labour

Sandwell Council has doubled its Lib Dem representation after the defection of another councillor deselected by Labour.

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Councillor Richard McVittie (right) has joined his partner, Mayor Richard Jones (left) in joining the Lib Dems

Newton ward councillor Richard McVittie has joined his partner Richard Jones, the current borough mayor, in linking up with the Lib Dems ahead of next month's local elections.

Old Warley councillor Mr Jones, Sandwell's first openly gay mayor, announced he was jumping ship last week, saying he wanted to build on the "changes" he had seen in the ward he has represented since 2019.

Both councillors had been linked with potential moves to the Conservatives ahead of joining the Lib Dems.

Their applications to stand for Labour were rejected as part of a major cull which saw around 17 current Labour councillors either stand down or be deselected.

The Lib Dems have not had political representation on the council since the days of Sadie Smith, who served as the party's only borough mayor from 2006-07.

Tony Underhill was the last Lib Dem to be elected in the borough in 2010 when he retained the Newton seat. He later defected to Labour along with his wife Joyce Underhill, and Keith Allcock.

Of Labour's 24 candidates selected for the May 4 elections, 17 are new after nine sitting councillors were canned.

Those on the way out include two other members of the current mayor's family, brother Stephen (Princes End) and mother Olwen (Wednesbury South).

A Labour source said: "I'm disappointed that councillors' Mcvittie and Jones felt they could not continue as Labour members following their recent deselection as candidates.

"The Labour Party has undertaken a rigorous selection process involving thorough vetting of all applicants. As a party, we remain committed to upholding the highest standards for those seeking public office."

A full list of candidates for the local elections will be published on Wednesday.