ONCE the dust has settled after the 2024 local elections the new administration at Dudley Council will face plenty of challenges.

Whether the Conservatives retain control, Labour takes over or the numbers mean a coalition or minority administration is formed, restructure, regeneration and financial problems will all be on the agenda.

Leading figures from the major political parties in the authority have been looking ahead to the day after the results are known.

Labour deputy leader, Cllr Judy Foster, is hoping to be part of the team running Dudley, which is one of 36 authorities of its type in the country, with a population of 324,969. 

Cllr Foster said: “ The finances of the council remain in a perilous state and so our first priority will be to open the books and establish the facts of the situation we have inherited. 

“The second priority will then be to begin planning how we deliver our election pledges.”

Conservative leader, Cllr Patrick Harley, also named his top priorities if he retains control.

He said: “Ensuring the good progress is continued to balance the books, produce a sustainable budget and rebuild our reserves and continue at pace the £1b regeneration plan for the Dudley Borough.”

Cllr Ryan Priest is currently the only Lib Dem on the council but is dreaming of being joined by more members of his party after the election.

He said: “The Liberal Democrat priorities will be to get Dudley’s roads fixed, including getting tough on dodgy contractors who do a poor job of repairs. 

“We also want to see the council invest fairly across communities, high streets and town centres in the borough, for too long the administration has been solely focused on their pet project areas leaving many communities feeling left behind.”

The council is facing a number of financial problems which could result in the authority effectively going bust.

Cllr Harley believes he has a plan to turn the accounts around.

He said: “DMBC certainly needs a new Total Operating Model. This requires reviewing every department for savings, new methods of delivering.

“This will not be salami slicing as our opponents have done in the past but a really deep rooted review into how services can be delivered differently but more efficiently.”

The Lib Dems want to move power out of the council house, Cllr Priest said: “We want to see more power devolved down to communities so that decisions are made by people who are affected by those decisions. 

“Whether that means town councils or stronger community forums should be for the communities themselves to decide.” 

Labour also has ideas for how the council should work if they take over, Cllr Foster said her group would “Focus on fiscal responsibility, one council approach, transparency, community engagement, efficient and effective delivery of services and standards in public life.”

With a general election looming the leaders have also been thinking about the effect of a change of government in Westminster.

Cllr Priest said: “Local government provides many vital services, its underfunding over the last decade has left communities across the country in ruin.

“The unfortunate reality is that whether the next Prime Minister wears a red tie or a blue one, Dudley will be left to fend for itself.”

Labour says a change in London would have a ‘significant’ effect, Cllr Foster said: “Labour locally working hand in hand with Labour nationally for the benefit of the working many, not the super-rich few.”

Cllr Harley may have been looking at opinion polls and is keeping his thoughts local, he said: “In all honesty Dudley under my leadership and that of Mayor Street has shown that despite political differences all parties under different political colours can work together.

“The West Midlands Combined Authority is a very good example of this.”