DUDLEY Council’s Labour leader could face a challenge for power at the annual general meeting of the council this Thursday (May 18).
Councillor Pete Lowe currently leads the authority which was left in no overall control after last year’s local election.
But councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley Conservatives, has been eyeing up the top job and has his sights set on challenging cllr Lowe for the leadership.
He told the News: “We’ll be putting forward an amendment to put forward a Conservative administration.
“After a shambolic 12 months where Labour had to reverse key policies and couldn’t get their own budget through full council - we have an obligation to form a new administration.
“Under Pete Lowe we’ve had surprise upon surprise. We’ve had the issue of charging for green waste collections, scrapping weekly bin collections and charging schools for crossing patrols – issue after issue that should have gone through scrutiny but hasn’t. I think Dudley deserves better.
“Hopefully we can do a better job of running the authority in no overall control but we will need to work with other groups including Labour on sensitive policies.”
Any such move to overthrow the current administration, however, would require the support of the borough’s seven UKIP councillors.
Cllr Harley said: “If enough members out of the 72 agree we’ll have control. I’m confident we’ve got the support we need but I’m not getting excited; we’ll just take it as it comes.”
The leader of the borough’s purple party, councillor Paul Brothwood, however, was remaining tight-lipped as to whether his group would officially support the Tories should a challenge occur
He told the News: "We won't know until the night - it depends how the vote goes on Thursday. But we need to ensure Labour don’t keep their socialist grip on the council.
"They put forward a ridiculous price hike on the council tax and made significant cuts to the voluntary sector which we desperately need.
"UKIP want purple party policies in place to reverse the damage done by Labour and reinvest in voluntary groups.”
And he added: "I don’t think it will be a surprise if Pete Lowe is removed as leader of the council."
Given the makeup of the council (Labour has 35 councillors, the Tories have 29, UKIP has seven and there's one independent) the vote could come down to how independent councillor Heather Rogers, a former Conservative, votes on the night.
But she told the News: “I’ve no idea what I’m going to do – I shall decide on the night and I shall vote with my conscience."
Councillor Pete Lowe said he too has "no idea" how the vote will go and he added: "It's going to be an interesting evening."
The meeting will take place at Dudley Council House in Priory Road at 6pm.