Dudley Council leader's plan to wipe out Labour in borough

The leader of Dudley Council says he wants to wipe out Labour in the borough after storming to victory in the local elections.

Patrick Harley (left) with newly elected Lye councillor Dave Borley at the count in Stourbridge last week
Patrick Harley (left) with newly elected Lye councillor Dave Borley at the count in Stourbridge last week

Councillor Patrick Harley's Tories gained 12 seats last week and now hold a huge majority in the chamber, with 46 seats to Labour's 24.

But he insists the Conservatives have not yet hit their "high watermark", saying the Tory surge was "here to stay" and that his party would increase its majority further in future elections.

Mr Harley said: "I believe we can go on to gain even more seats, and my priority is to make sure we don't have a Labour group in Dudley.

"If they fall below 10 councillors they are not recognised a group, and I think that can happen by 2023."

Dudley Council make-up:

Mr Harley said he was shocked by the enormous scale of some of the victories in last week's elections, citing the 681 majority in Brierley Hill, a ward where Labour had more than doubled the Tory vote in 2016.

He said he was "pleasantly surprised" to have taken Halesowen North and Upper Gornal, but that the overall result had been "coming for a number of years" as more and more people desert Labour for the Conservatives.

"The old safe Labour seats... they have neglected them," Mr Harley said. "Slowly but surely with new developments and our local priorities, coupled with the party's successes nationally, people are saying 'we can't keep voting for the same old just because our grandparents did'.

"People want to vote for someone they think can make a difference to their lives. I think we are doing it locally, Boris is doing it nationally on Brexit and the vaccine, and people are taking that to heart."

Mr Harley said Labour had repeatedly failed to learn from a succession of poor election results.

"They say they want to talk to people to see what their priorities are," he said. "Well I think people want to know what Labour's priorities are, and at the moment they aren't making that clear.

"They think the votes will come back next year, but the fact is a lot of their voters are now voting Tory."

He says a key part of the Tories success is that "people can now see the skyline changing".

"It's not hot air in reports, they can see building actually happening," he said, pointing to developments such as the very light rail innovation centre and Portersfield.

He says his key priorities for the year ahead include pressing ahead with the regeneration programme, which he said will unlock investment for the whole borough, bringing in more business rates and boosting spending on the high street.

Road improvements are also high on his list. "Some of the roads in Dudley are absolutely awful due to Labour cutting the highways budget for five years in a row.

"Eventually there's a price to pay. We've put some money back in but we are playing catch up. We need to speed this up so people can see a difference when they are out in their cars."

Mr Harley said he wants to "give people a reason" to visit Dudley town centre, with more leisure facilities – such as the upcoming ice rink – and homes on site, as well as retail.

Investors from the Far East were due to visit the town next week, he said, pledging that the council would do "all it can" to bring in private investment.

"People will put up with a lot from politicians as long as they can see delivery on the ground," Mr Harley said.

"That's what we will be doing in Dudley so that people can see things are changing for the better."

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