York Council on knife edge after Labour defection to Tories

Coun Helen Douglas
Coun Helen Douglas
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A LABOUR councillor in York defected to the Conservatives last night in a move which robs the party of its majority on the city’s council.

Helen Douglas’s decision to swap parties means that the opposition parties combined now have the same number of seats as the ruling Labour group.

The forthcoming by-election in the Westfield ward will now determine whether Labour again becomes the majority party or no single party is in overall control raising the prospect of a minority or coalition administration.

Labour group leader James Alexander said: “We are disappointed that Helen has decided to embrace the Conservative agenda of austerity after being elected by residents in Clifton to support Labour measures to protect public services.

“It is a matter of regret that, after failing to secure the support of local Labour members to be re-selected to contest next May’s election, she has now decided she is a Tory.

“The public will make its own judgment on this choice.”

Explaining her decision to defect, Coun Douglas pointed to the “lack of leadership” of Ed Miliband and the council’s local plan which will see thousands of homes built in the city.

She said: “The Labour Party seems to rush from one bandwagon to another and their utterances on cost of living look empty words.

“It is simplistic and wrong for Labour to blame the government for all changes in people’s circumstances.”

She added: “I support the need for more housing and more affordable housing. However it is vital we protect York, allowing some growth but proportional to what is sustainable.”

Welcoming the switch, Conservative group leader Chris Steward said: “Although until now I have been on the opposite political side to Helen, she is always a councillor that has commanded my respect and I look forward to working with her now on the direction of the Conservative Group and hopefully after May 2015 the future direction of York Council.”

The forthcoming Westfield ward by-election has been triggered by the death of Coun Lynn Jeffries last month.