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Sandwell Council elects leader at third attempt, and Dudley stays Labour

Sandwell Council elects leader at third attempt, and Dudley stays Labour

🕔24.May 2016

Sandwell Council has managed to elect a new leader at the third attempt, amid angry scenes after several members of the controlling Labour group were barred from voting.

Acting leader Steve Eling emerged victorious, beating Cllr Yvonne Davies by 36 votes to 23.

But Eling’s victory occurred after the West Midlands Regional Labour Party stepped in to prevent a number of councillors from voting, stating that they were not qualified to take part because they had not paid their membership subscriptions.

Cllr Eling will now formally take over from Darren Cooper, the former leader who died at Easter.

His election will be seen as good news and a stabilising influence for the West Midlands Combined Authority, whose cabinet consists of the seven metropolitan council leaders.

However, the disputed manner of his election will do little to heal wounds in the Labour group.

An attempt to replace Cllr Cooper shortly after his death was cut short by the regional party following allegations levelled against individual members.

The Labour group, consisting of all but two of Sandwell’s councillors, met again last Friday (May 20) and a vote between Cllr Eling and Cllr Davies ended in a dead heat.

It is reported that one of the councillors barred from voting last night was Pete Hughes, who helped to organise the election before the regional party took over.

The election was held against the backdrop of the Gowling report into alleged corruption at Sandwell Council.

Cllr Eling vowed to clean up the council and said “honesty, openness and transparency” would be his guiding principles. He promised to deal with issues raised in the Gowning report.

Also in the Black Country, Labour remains in control of Dudley Council despite not having an overall majority. Conservative and UKIP councillors failed to seal a deal, leaving Cllr Pete Lowe reconfirmed as the Labour leader of the council.

As the dust finally settles from the May 5 local elections, the West Midlands’ political map remains broadly the same with the exception of Walsall, where the council was taken from the Tories by Labour. The new leader, Cllr Sean Coughlin, is understood to be backing the combined authority.

In Coventry, a Labour leadership battle saw Cllr George Duggins replace Cllr Ann Lucas as council leader.

Coventry remains the most sceptical of all the seven councils over the benefits of a combined authority and metro mayor. Cllr Duggins will be under pressure to fall into line and back WMCA and the devolution deal.

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