Lib Dems woo BNP in bid to oust Tories

By Michael Peel

A DRAMATIC coup is on the cards which could see the Conservatives ousted after controlling Calderdale Council for nearly six years.

Liberal Democrat supremo Patrick Phillips wants to take over as leader – and he is prepared to form an alliance with the BNP to achieve his objective.

His success depends on what Labour councillors choose to do.

They formed a pact with the Tories in May to keep them in power.

A vote of no confidence in the Conservative administration will be put to Wednesday's meeting of the council in Halifax Town Hall.

The revolt has been prompted by controversial plans to close five village libraries.

The Conservatives hold only 19 of the 51 seats on the council but all seven seats on the cabinet committee, which makes the key decisions.

In July, councillors as a whole voted to keep the libraries open for the time being but the cabinet said they had to go.

The Liberal Democrats hold 16 seats on the council and intend to take over the cabinet if their coup is successful.

They are hoping to win with the backing of the three Independent councillors, the two BNP members and ex-Tory turned English Democrat, Paul Rogan.

But it is the 10 Labour councillors who hold the balance of power and they are keeping their powder dry.

Labour group leader Tom McElroy said: "We will be meeting next week to discuss the motion submitted by councillor Phillips in more detail – until then I am unable to give a clear indication of what the group's position will be on this matter."

In his motion to next week's council meeting, Coun Phillips (Greetland and Stainland) said: "As a result of the cabinet's refusal to act in accordance with the will of the majority of elected members, this council no longer has confidence in the cabinet currently constituted to work for the best interests of Calderdale."

He has called for members to back the idea of him being the replacement for Tory leader Ann McAllister (Rastrick).

Councillor McAllister said she would not say much on the subject until she had discussed the proposal in detail with group members.

"The Conservative group has had an excellent record since forming an administration to run the council five years ago and the Liberal Democrat proposal was only to be expected, as they stated at the annual meeting in May that it was their intention to disrupt the democratic process."

At that meeting Labour councillors agreed with the Conservatives that they should continue to hold all the cabinet seats while Labour councillors would chair the key scrutiny panels.

Disappointed Liberal Democrats branded it a "stitch up."

michael.peel@halifaxcourier.co.uk