DUDLEY Conservatives were celebrating tonight (Thursday) after ousting the council’s Labour administration and seizing control of the authority at the annual general meeting.
Councillor Patrick Harley, leader of Dudley’s Tory group, was elected as leader with councillor Dave Vickers as deputy leader, after putting forward a bid to form a new Conservative administration.
With a little help from the borough’s seven UKIP councillors and independent councillor Heather Rogers - the 29-strong Tory group relieved Labour leader, councillor Pete Lowe, of the top job after the vote came in at 37-35.
An “elated” councillor Harley said afterwards: “I’m a bit numb; it’s been a long-winded process but I believe we’ve got the best team, the best policies and the energy to drive the borough forward."
He said UKIP had “made the right decision and proven a lot of political courage” in voting the bid for a new adminsitration through and he added: “They’ve put the borough first - there aren’t many politicians that do that and I believe they have.”
But he stressed: “It’s not a coalition - it’s a Conservative administration with a Conservative leader and cabinet but we will be inclusive and talk to other groups and we’ll take policies to scrutiny prior to cabinet and announcing things in the press.”
Councillor Pete Lowe, the outgoing leader, made no comment before the vote was put to the floor but he told the News after: “What we have seen tonight is the rebirth of blue-kip or the UKIP Con. They’ve sent a very clear message that if you vote UKIP you get Tory and if you vote Tory you get UKIP.”
Cllr Lowe also said that by voting down any chance of Labour members retaining or taking on any committee chairmanships that the new leadership had “brought an absolute end to the last 12 months where we have tried to work cross party with all political parties”.
He added: “They’ve said very clearly they don’t want to listen or take on board the views of the largest party on Dudley Council. It’s a very sorry state of democracy that we find ourselves in a blue-kip coup of the council.”
He continued: “I shall remain very proud to be leader of the largest group on Dudley Council and I will continue to work diligently for all the people of the borough.”
Councillor Paul Brothwood, UKIP group leader on Dudley Council, said he was “over the moon” after the meeting and he added: “We’ve finally got rid of the grip of socialism in Dudley borough.”
He said Labour had "brought a legacy of debt to this council and abandoned regeneration plans” and added: “Towards the end they isolated us on the leisure centres and council tax - we had to remove them, it was the best thing for the borough.”
Despite supporting the Tories on the vote - he stressed the purple party would remain independent and he added: “We’ve not accepted any cabinet positions - we’re free to vote how we want.”
The new cabinet will comprise councillor Patrick Harley as not just leader but cabinet member for policy.
Councillor Nic Barlow will be cabinet member for adult social care, councillor Peter Miller will be in charge of health and wellbeing, councillor Anne Millward will be cabinet member for children’s services and councillor Ian Kettle will head up planning and economic development.
Councillor Les Jones will be responsible for housing, councillor Steve Clark will be in charge of finance and legal services, councillor Karen Shakespeare will be responsible for environmental service and councillor David Stanley will head up corporate transformation and performance.