City council still leaderless as 'shambles' continues

Dave Mark UNCERTAINTY continues to surround the issue of who will be at the helm of Hull Council next week – after party chiefs told the city's Labour councillors to take themselves into Opposition.

In one of the closest-fought elections in recent times, the Liberal Democrats last week became the largest party on the council, as big-name Labour councillors lost their seats.

But the voters stopped short of giving the Lib Dems enough members to take full control of the Cabinet.

Council insiders made it clear that, in the wake of the election, Labour were set to forge alliances with smaller parties like the Liberals and Independents to ensure they kept control, with Ken Branson remaining as leader.

But yesterday it emerged that regional party officials were unhappy about a position on the Cabinet being offered to a member of one of the smaller parties and instructed Labour councillors to go into opposition.

The Lib Dems will not put forward a proposed Cabinet but, with 26 seats to Labour's 25, they look unlikely to gain enough support from other parties to take over.

Deposed former Labour leader Colin Inglis has vowed to vote against an alternative Labour administration if it includes arch-rivals Daren Hale and John Black, who has been voted on to Labour's prospective cabinet. Both were instrumental in his removal as leader.

He is also unlikely to back the Lib Dems.

Lib Dem leader Carl Minns said: "It's all very messy. Watching Labour do these pathetic deals to keep their grip on power just reinforces so many people's ideas about the sort of councillors they have.

"We will be putting forward a proposed Cabinet, but I don't think we will get the votes. I hope we do but it's a knife edge and, if past experiences count for anything, the smaller parties will vote with Labour. "

If unresolved, the stalemate could see no council leader or cabinet being appointed at next week's annual council meeting.

The shambles means the council could find itself in breach of the law by not having an elected executive.

Coun Minns said: "Labour will pretend to appease their regional bosses by standing back while we put forward our Cabinet. If we don't get the votes, they will say they had no choice but to take the reins. It's all a smokescreen. And people around here really do deserve better."

Mr Branson said: "The Liberal Democrats are the largest party and we expect them to put forward proposals to form the next administration. If they can't win enough support then we will offer ourselves up for the good of the city."