Express & Star

Walsall Council leader suspended by Conservative Party amid row with another member

The leader of Walsall Council has been suspended from the Conservative Party amid a dispute with another member.

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Walsall Council leader Mike Bird

Councillor Mike Bird has been suspended from the party for three months, along with Councillor Suky Samra.

Councillor Bird said he was considering an appeal against the decision, and was confident he would remain leader of the council despite his suspension.

However, it is understood that the Conservative group will meet tonight to elect a new leader and deputy leader.

Councillor Bird will remain leader until the annual meeting of the council on May 22. However, if the ruling group has elected a new leader by then, normal convention would be that Councillor Bird would be replaced.

"It's a long-running battle involving certain members of the group," he told the Express & Star.

"This is a dispute between certain members of the group relating to democratic processes, and the appointments to certain committees."

He said it was disappointing that the dispute had come to a head the week after a successful election showing for the borough's Conservatives against a disappointing national backdrop.

Councillor Samra, who has been sitting as an independent since he was suspended from Walsall Council's Conservative group last year, said the suspensions were the result of a long-running dispute between himself and Councillor Bird.

"I have spoken up against the way Asian councillors are treated within the Conservative group, and I have also been quite vocal and critical of Councillor Bird's administration, and some of his appointments.

"I have been sitting as an independent for some time, so it makes no difference to me."

Councillor Samra was suspended in April last year following the launch of an investigation concerning a conflict of interest surrounding the licence of Savannah's strip club in Newport Street.

The strip club was above Valesha's nightclub, where 29-year-old Akeem Francis-Kerr was fatally stabbed the month before.

Councillor Suky Samra

The probe was launched after West Midlands Police said a "serious disclosure failure" occurred when the renewal application was submitted for the strip club, which operated under the same licence as Valesha's and was held by Capital Leisure.

The only director of the firm was listed as Councillor Samra, who was a member of the council's licensing committee. However, police said it had since come to light that other parties were involved – namely Mr Samra's parents – and that the application for the renewal of the licence was "seriously deficient".

A spokeswoman for the Conservative Party said: “Councillor Mike Bird and Councillor Suky Samra have been suspended from the Conservative Party following a disciplinary investigation. All decisions are subject to appeal.

“The Conservative Party has an established code of conduct and formal processes where complaints can be made in confidence. This process is rightly confidential.”

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