Labour members of Sandwell Council are meeting in private tonight (Monday) to choose a new interim leader of their group after council leader Steve Eling’s party membership was suspended last month.

Sixty eight Labour councillors will choose who they want to take up the reins for for the next three months before they elect a permanent chief following May’s local elections.

Two members for the Abbey ward, Cllr Eling and Cllr Bob Piper, are not allowed to attend the meeting because their memberships are suspended.

Last week, Cllr Eling said he would continue in the role of council leader until he had received further advice from the party’s national executive committee which launched an investigation into him following a complaint.

The choice of a new group leader is expected to be an indicator of who will become the council’s most senior politician if Labour retains control after May’s election.

Party rules require that candidates do not publicly state their intentions to stand, but three councillors are expected to contest the internal election.

Once chosen, Sandwell will be in the unusual position of the majority party having different councillors serving as leader of the council and of the group.