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Defection puts York on knife edge

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Labour’s hold on City of York Council hangs by a whisker after a councillor’s defection to the Conservatives.

Helen Douglas switched parties after being de-selected by Labour ahead of next May’s all-out elections, council leader James Alexander (Lab) said.

This leaves Labour tied on 23 seats with all other parties, with the casting vote held by Conservative lord mayor Ian Gillies.

York’s political control is further complicated by a pending by-election in the Westfield ward where a Labour councillor defected to the Liberal Democrats and later died. Labour had a majority of 139 over the Lib Dems there in the last election in 2011.

Cllr Alexander said in a statement: “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.”

Cllr Douglas told LGC she had left Labour nationally “because I believe they lack leadership and vision”, and so felt obliged to leave the party locally.

She added: “As for York Labour council, their autocratic leadership style, ignoring residents and bullying members is not something I want my name to be associated with. 

“I am not Labour enough for the party. York politically is a two horse race and I feel the Conservatives have a vision nationally so that is where I have gone.”

York has been active in the co-operative council movement among Labour-run authorities.

A description on the council website stated: “Co-operative and mutual models allow councils to retain jobs and investment locally, they’re ethical, more flexible around citizen and worker needs and can contribute to all aspects of the local economy.

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