DUDLEY'S solitary Lib Dem councillor says if other parties want their support the price would be high.

Cllr Ryan Priest is dreaming of his group winning enough seats in May’s local elections to hold the balance of power in a hung council where no party has an overall majority.

The ambitious 27-year-old councillor, who was elected to the Cradley and Wollescote ward in 2023, is focused Lib Dems winning more seats on the authority this year, when all 72 places on the council will be up for grabs.

Cllr Priest said: “We have got a huge opportunity to take us from a small base of councillors – just me – up to a sizeable group, that’s got to be the ambition.

“We have got a very good chance of picking up all three seats in Cradley and Wollescote, we have got our eye on Pedmore and Stourbridge East, and Lye and Stourbridge North as well.”

While Cllr Priest concedes outright victory in all three wards would be a dream election night, he also believes a Lib Dem group of nine, with three seats to be decided in each ward, would almost certainly make them kingmakers in coalition with a larger group of either Conservative or Labour councillors.

He said: “In terms of being kingmaker we have a high price, we know the things that are wrong in our communities and what we want fixing.

“We would see a hung council as a way to get some of those things done but we are not thinking about after the election.

“Right now the priority is to get as many Lib Dem councillors elected as possible.”

Before May the council will have to approve a new budget and try to tackle huge financial problems which even the Dudley’s Conservative leader agrees are in a perilous position.

One of the key strategies for the current council leadership is to bring more business into Dudley through regeneration but Cllr Priest has his doubts.

He said: “The council has some huge regeneration projects but they are focused around Dudley town centre and Brierley Hill.

“I don’t see the council tax payers in Cradley and Wollescote getting bang for their buck in their community.

“You’ve got the abandoned shops at the bottom of Colley Gate – we’ve still not got a date on when they will be demolished.

“At the bottom of Maple Tree Lane there is a site that has been there for years so regeneration is happening but it’s not happening across the borough.

“I think Dudley is too over-centralised, what we need to see is more of its powers devolved down to ward level.

“My preference would be a town council, I would love a Cradley town council, I think that would be the best way to organise things.

“It’s a layer of local government that’s missing, it means people would have a say about things in their area.”

As all political parties gear up for a year which will see the biggest election in Dudley for two decades and almost certainly a general election, Cllr Priest named other issues which he thinks will be on voters’ minds in his area.

He said: “The three big issues continue to be anti-social behaviour, protecting green spaces and fly-tipping.”

With everything to play for in Dudley this year, the Lib Dems would do a deal with whoever is willing to pay their price.

Cllr Priest said: “We wouldn’t rule anybody out, it would be a negotiation and we will talk to both sides about how we get the best deal.”