Labour has taken power at Blackburn-with-Darwen Council. They will now run a minority administration after a vote of No Confidence at last night's Council meeting following the collapse of the Conservative/Lib Dem/For Darwen coalition. In the vote two of the For Darwen councillors sided with Labour. the meeting saw a protestor throw a shoeat a former Conservative council leader Cllr Colin Rigby.
Before the vote, Cllr Michael Lee, the Conservative council leader until last night, said:
"As a coalition we have achieved a great deal over the last three and half years including the lowest council tax in Lancashire, a return to weekly refuse collections and investing £4m extra per year in adult social care.
"If the vote goes against us tonight we will work in opposition to ensure decisions focus on the priorities."
One of the For Darwen councillors who sided with Labour as Cllr Trevor Maxfield. The current issue of Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs column offers this background:
Blackburn councillor Trevor Maxfield isn't as funny – or as good-looking – as the late Groucho Marx, but the pair do have several things in common, namely, their principles. As Groucho said: "Those are my principles, and if you don't like 'em…well, I have others."
A former local organiser for the British National Party, Maxfield left to form a motley crew calling themselves the For Darwen Party and was somehow voted on Blackburn-with-Darwen Council in 2007. In June this year he was appointed "executive member for leisure" as the Conservative and Lib Dems tried to woo his party into a coalition to keep Labour out of power. What his new friends didn't know was that Maxfield was actually a member of the Labour Party, having quietly joined after the General Election.
He stood down from his position in August, claiming his conscience wouldn't allow him to oversea the closure of a leisure centre in a bid to save money. He told the local paper he was now an "independent" – despite that labour membership card in his pocket.
Private Eye speculated that Labour gaining power could see Cllr Maxfield "rewarded with a nice job by the new regime as a thank you for his, er, loyalty."