It was a dramatic night across the West Midlands in the elections, with some councils seeing new adminstrations. Local Government Correspondent Neil Elkes reports
Councillor Ian Shires was left facing one of the most difficult decisions of his long career in local politics after being thrust into the role of Nick Clegg style kingmaker at Walsall Council following a dramatic election result.
But the Willenhall North councillor, who leads a group of five Liberal Democrats, took the unusual step of asking voters for their views through his internet blog.
Walsall Council returned to no overall control last week as the previously dominant Tories lost five seats, while the Labour opposition gained seven.
With 28 seats and 26 seats respectively, the two parties needed the Liberal Democrats to form a stable coalition, or could attempt to run a minority administration.
He said: “We lost a seat, but gained the balance of power so no pressure then.
“It is a dilemma. There are a number of different options open to us, including leaving one of the parties to form a minority administration.
“Whatever we do we’re likely to be seen as the bad guys.”
He suggested that with the Tories, led by Mike Bird, losing over all control last week, that the momentum is with Labour who gained seven seats. Coun Shires also opposed the recent Tory budget accusing them of “salami slicing” to hit a financial target rather than protecting services for the vulnerable.
But he admitted having reservations about Labour, saying leader Tim Oliver had not outlined alternative plans.
So he has set out his stall demanding a review of the 2011-12 budget and more openness in council decision making, including moves to dismantle the Cabinet and scrutiny system or at least open it up.
The half-a-dozen or so responses on his blog have been reasoned, balanced and have probably done little to ease his dilemma.
Whatever the decision of Walsall Liberal Democrat, a new administration, even a minority one, will need to assume control by the council’s annual meeting on Monday, May 23.
Elsewhere across the West Midlands it was a dismal night for Liberal Democrat councillors who seem to have taken the flak from voters for their part in the coalition Government.
Labour made progress in Walsall, without doing enough to take control, and it was a night of mixed fortunes for the Tories as they regained Solihull Council.