08:18 Tuesday 18 February 2014

Leader under threat as Labour closes in

Written byHELEN KREFT

THE Conservatives could lose control of East Staffordshire Borough Council as Labour plans to oust the authority’s leader from power in a political sting.

Labour’s Dennis Fletcher, who represents Winshill on the borough council, will table a motion at an upcoming council meeting which, if successful, would remove Richard Grosvenor as leader of the council and see him replaced by Labour leader Julian Mott.

Councillor Fletcher said he was confident Labour would win the necessary backing after the Tories lost their overall majority last year, when four ‘rebels’ quit the party.

He said: “The Conservatives have lost control of the council. They no longer have the majority of members.

“What it will mean is that we will run it fairly and properly.

“This is also a message to the Conservative Government, which has dealt so unfairly with people. People are fed up with it – even their own party is fed up, which is borne out by the rebels leaving.

“This is a message to the Conservatives – this is what will happen to you at the next election.”

But the motion – apparently backed by rebels Malcolm Barrett, Nathan Birnie, Robert Hardwick and Peter Ball – has been met with anger by the Tories.

Philip Atkins, leader of Staffordshire County Council and former Tory borough councillor, said: “I was extremely dismayed (to see the motion) apparently supported by the four Independent councillors.

“If the Independents do support this change of political direction at the council, there can be no excuses for their betrayal of their electorate who took the time to go out and vote for them.”

Burton MP Andrew Griffiths agreed. He said: “The reality is the council could change hands without a single vote being cast, and that is just not democratic. If the Independents had any courage, they would call a by-election and let the voters have their say.”

Steve Simmonds, deputy chairman of the East Staffordshire Conservatives, said: “If they go ahead it’ll be a dark day for democracy. Richard Grosvenor has done an excellent job.”

Councillor Grosvenor and the Tory rebels were not available for comment at the time the Mail went to press.

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