A POWER battle is set to break out at Dudley Council after Conservative councillor Mike Attwood defected to the Labour party last week.

Labour group leader Cllr Pete Lowe confirmed the Norton councillor made “difficult decision” the switch to his party at a meeting on Thursday (July 5) after notifying the council’s chief executive and the Conservative group leader Cllr Patrick Harley.

Cllr Harley, council leader, called the move a “shocking attempt” by Labour to try and gain control of the authority.

But Cllr Attwood told the News his decision was due to various incidents within the Stourbridge Conservatives group which had left him “disillusioned” with the party.

He said: “I’ve seen first-hand what Government cuts are doing to Dudley and my constituents in Norton ward. Conservative-run Dudley Council is doing nothing to stand up for the people I represent.

“I have been left bitterly disappointed in equal measure by the untenable plan and poor decisions Councillor Harley and his team have made in Dudley and Theresa May’s weak and wobbly leadership nationally.

“Dudley is at the heart of the Black Country. As Black Country Day draws closer I have realised that the only way to stand up for my constituents was to join the local Labour Party.

“I got into politics to make a difference and only Labour have a plan to build a better, fairer society that works for everyone.”

The switch of Cllr Attwood could lead to a shift in power in the council chamber as it now means the Labour group are the majority party with 36 councillors, compared to the Tories 35 councillors and a single independent.

Cllr Lowe told the News: “Mike attended the Labour group meeting and he has made the difficult decision to leave the Conservative party.

“He believes the Conservative party aren’t the party that he joined and he is impressed with the community aspirations and what we are trying to achieve in the Labour party.

“Mike has been warmly welcomed by the Labour group and I am very pleased to have him within our party.”

Cllr Lowe said his party will be submitting a motion of no confidence against Cllr Harley at the earliest opportunity.

He added: “The earliest we can put it forward will be the next meeting in October, so it will be very interesting to see what happens over the summer months.

“But we welcome the fact that our mayor [Conservative councillor Alan Taylor] recognised his role would be to support the largest party on the council – and we have now become the largest party.”

Cllr Taylor, however, has refuted Cllr Lowe's claims that he said he would back the 'largest' party, adding: “I said that 'I would support the controlling group' which is completely different.”

Cllr Harley has slammed Cllr Attwood's decision, and said: “They [Labour] know exactly what they are doing and it is obviously something we will oppose.

“Nothing can be done until October anyway, but I’m 100 per cent certain that if a notice of motion is made then we will get the support we need to stay in control of this council.

“But even if they do manage to take control they would be stupid to reverse any of the decisions we have made because that would put the council into jeopardy.”

The Conservative leader believes Cllr Attwood should have done the “honourable thing” and stepped down from the council, rather than switching his allegiances.

Cllr Harley added: “He’s known in the chamber for being a ‘Tory Boy’ so does he really think he will be welcomed into their party by the Labour backbenchers?

“He could have done what his fellow Norton councillor Heather Rogers did and become an independent, who has continued to stick to her Conservative roots.

“What would have been more honourable, would have been to step down from the council and fight for his seat as a Labour party candidate.

“But we look forward to taking him on and beating him in 2020 – that’s even if he’s allowed to try and regain his seat.”