A leadership challenge could be made at a dramatic Wirral meeting this evening.
The LDRS understands that Wirral Labour’s deputy leader Cllr Paul Stuart could make a last-minute pitch to replace the party’s current leader Janette Williamson and take charge of the Labour group before making a bid to lead the borough’s council.
Cllr Stuart, who was re-elected in Seacombe in last week’s local elections, is reportedly gathering support within the local authority’s Labour group to try and take over from current council leader Janette Williamson in a party vote this evening.
Other reports have suggested Cllr Stuart may have spoken with rival parties in order to try and win votes for a council leadership vote later this month.
The dramatic move would come just after Labour came out of the recent local elections with 30 councillors. Despite some strong gains, the party failed to retake full control of the council, which remains in no overall control.
Some in the Labour group have criticised such a move, arguing that it will not look good to try and remove the only female council leader in the city region. There has even been talk of Labour councillors quitting to form a new independent group if Cllr Stuart is successful.
All political parties in the council will select their own leader and deputy leader this week followed by discussions about who gets to lead particular committees under the council’s current committee structure.
The council’s AGM will be held later in the month, where a new council leader will be chosen through a vote of all parties.
Labour sources said that as part of his pitch for council leader, Cllr Stuart has offered key committee positions to both Conservative and Labour councillors including on both the local authority’s regeneration and environment committees. The LDRS has attempted to contact Cllr Stuart about this move but has not received a response.
If such a move was to go ahead, it could have significant consequences for key upcoming decisions like the future management of Hoylake Beach, cycle lanes, the rollout of more 20mph zones, and future regeneration projects across the Wirral.
A returning Conservative councillor said they would welcome a Labour leader they would be able to work with, particularly on issues like regeneration.
However several Conservatives told the LDRS that they have not been approached about committee positions at this stage. Wirral Conservatives, the council’s second largest party, will be choosing their next leader on 10 May as Cllr Tom Anderson steps down.
As there is no overall majority on the council, the leader of the Labour group will have to get support from their party and at least another to become council leader at a public meeting on 24 May.
Labour are four seats short of a majority and Wirral’s Green Party, the third largest on the council, said it would not welcome Cllr Stuart becoming leader of the council.
Cllr Paul Stuart and Cllr Janette Williamson were approached for comment.
Main image: Cllr Janette Williamson and Cllr Paul Stuart/Wirral Borough Council