THE Conservatives have seized power at Worcester City Council in a sensational coup amid angry scenes last night.
Councillor Adrian Gregson, the city’s leader until last night, was dumped from office and his entire cabinet dismissed as the Tories grabbed control back from Labour.
The 17-strong Tory group was able to return to power after being backed by Councillor Alan Amos, who stunned the council by quitting Labour just three days ago to become an independent.
To rub salt into Labour’s wounds, Cllr Amos was handed the role of the new Mayor of Worcester, and ignored Labour cries of “disgraceful” to take the chains.
Last night’s dramatic events, which appeared unlikely only a few days ago, came after May’s elections left no party in overall control.
Amid unprecedented scenes, Cllr Amos voted with the Conservatives to kick Cllr Gregson out of office before appointing a new-look Tory cabinet.
It means Councillor Simon Geraghty, who is now the leader of the Tory-led council, made his own slice of history by being the first man to hold the role twice.
Cllr Geraghty, also leader from 2006 to 2013, called Worcester “a great city” and said he was “delighted” to be back at the helm.
New deputy leader Councillor Marc Bayliss called the Labour administration “potty” and said it had presided over “unpopular” policies like raising parking charges.
“With 17 of the 35 councillors we believe we should have the opportunity to create a stable administration,” he said. “It’s time to put Worcester back on the right track.
“In a real world of tough choices, the key mission for our group is what we deliver, not how we deliver it.”
Labour’s Richard Udall called it a motion over “selling the city”, saying the Tories would privatise “parks, street cleaning, bin collections” if they took control.
Cllr Gregson, who appeared resigned to his fate, said “a return to the dark ages beckons.”
Cllr Bayliss countered by saying Labour had an “obsession” over keeping services in-house.
May’s elections left Labour on 16 councillors, with one Lib Dem, Liz Smith, and Neil Laurenson the lone Green.
Ever since, as Cllr Smith insisted she was prepared to back Labour, Cllr Laurenson was regarded as a ‘kingmaker’, with both main parties trying to get a Green deal in place.
But on Sunday Cllr Amos, amid a series of fallouts with his Labour colleagues, decided to quit, changing the entire plot.
During last night’s vote Cllr Laurenson and Cllr Smith backed Adrian Gregson, along with all 15 Labour councillors. But 17 Tories and Cllr Amos booted them out.
Labour had only been in power for one year after teaming up with the Greens and Lib Dems last May to oust the Conservatives for the first time since 2000.
The new cabinet contains Chris Mitchell, who takes over the finance brief, Andy Roberts in the cleaner and greener service, Lucy Hodgson in customer services and David Wilkinson who gets the safer and stronger portfolio.
Cllr Amos took over from Pat Agar as mayor. The new deputy mayor is Roger Knight, a Conservative.
* TOMORROW'S Worcester News will feature a three-page special on the dramatic coup.