Labour’s Cllr Elise Wilson has clung on to her role as leader of the council after a Liberal Democrat motion to remove her was voted down, in what the party’s leader called “a grubby stitch-up”.
In total, 33 councillors voted against the motion while 28 voted in favour. Among those who refused to back the Lib Dems were all eight of Stockport’s Conservative councillors.
The vote was “a testament to strong leadership”, Wilson told Place North West.
“I am delighted. It shows that we have been able to reach out and work with others and build consensus in a council that is under no overall control. It is about putting Stockport first and getting things right for people of Stockport.”
However, Lib Dem leader Cllr Mark Hunter told Place that Labour and the Conservatives had worked together to prevent his party, which has the most seats within the council, from taking control.
“It was a grubby deal stitched up by two parties whose only common interest is trying to block the Lib Dems.
“Labour has run Stockport with the tacit support of the Tories. We are the only threat to Labour in terms of running the council.”
With 26 seats, the Lib Dems overtook Labour as the largest party in Stockport following the elections earlier this month, after Labout incumbent Yvonne Guariento lost her seat in Reddish South to Green Party candidate Gary Lawson.
No party has overall control in Stockport and Labour, which now occupies 25 of the council’s 63 seats, has led as a minority administration since 2016.
In the weeks that followed the elections, cross-party discussions over a potential leadership change had hit a brick wall.
As a result, Hunter tabled a motion to remove Wilson as the leader, citing a historical precedent whereby the party with the most seats has always led the council.
Addressing the meeting before the vote, Conservative leader Cllr Mike Hurleston said: “The Lib Dems would be more interested in spin and political stunts than in working cross-party for the residents of Stockport.”
Before last night’s meeting, the Lib Dems had accused Labour and the Conservatives of trying to block the press and the public viewing the meeting, a claim both parties deny.
The meeting was ultimately live streamed but Hunter said, “if it hadn’t been for our action, they would have had the meeting behind closed door so nobody would have seen the grubby deal”.
The next leadership contest will be held next year and the next whole council elections are to take place in 2023.