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Mayor of Walsall hits back after Labour fury over council leader battle date

By Walsall Advertiser  |  Posted: August 07, 2014

Labour will put forward a motion at a council meeting next week in a bid to replace Cllr Mike Bird as leader with Cllr Sean Coughlan.

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THE Mayor of Walsall has been blasted by the leader of Walsall Labour Group after a meeting to decide who leads Walsall Council was scheduled nine days earlier than requested.

The political party wanted to hold the extraordinary meeting – where they will put forward a motion to replace Walsall Council leader Cllr Mike Bird with Labour leader Cllr Sean Coughlan – on August 20.

It comes after the group won the Birchills-Leamore by- election, which boosted the number of Labour councillors on the authority to 30 – half of the 60 seats available.

But the Mayor of Walsall, Cllr Pete Smith, has now scheduled the meeting for next Monday (August 11).

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A furious Cllr Coughlan claims the group were not consulted and that the vote would favour the present Conservative/Lib Dem coalition.

"The coalition has to rely on the votes of UKIP and independents councillors, of which the Mayor is one," he said.

"We fear that, because of previous commitments, some Labour members will not be able to attend."

But Cllr Smith has hit back – and said the meeting had been scheduled for next week to be fair to all political parties.

He said that members from the Independent, Liberal Democrat and Conservative parties had complained about the August 20 date as they would not be able to make it.

The Mayor also said he consulted with Paul Sheehan, chief executive of the authority, who told him that in the face of swingeing budget cuts, the council needed to vote sooner rather than later.

Cllr Smith added: "As Mayor I would be failing in my duty if I had called a meeting that could be perceived as having been calculated by some to give an opportunistic advantage to one partisan section of the council, especially on such an important issue as control of the council."

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