Lib Dem councillor defects to Labour Party in Sheffield

Cllr Ben Curran Councillor Curran said he was disappointed with where the party was going

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A Sheffield Liberal Democrat councillor has defected to the Labour Party.

Councillor Ben Curran's decision to switch parties could mean the Liberal Democrats losing control of Sheffield City Council.

But the Liberal Democrats - whose leader Nick Clegg is MP for Sheffield Hallam - will remain in control unless there is a vote of no confidence against council leader, Paul Scriven.

Mr Scriven said the move had come as a "surprise."

The Lib Dems are the biggest party on Sheffield City Council and run the authority despite losing their overall majority at the local elections earlier this year.

Before Mr Curran's defection the Lib Dems held 42 of the 84 seats. Labour had 38 seats and the balance was held by Independents and Greens.

There is also one vacancy on the council left by the recent death of former council leader and Labour stalwart Jan Wilson.

But unless there is a collaboration of Labour, Independents and the Green Party and there is a vote of no confidence against Cllr Scriven, the Liberal Democrats remain in control.

'Pack of lies'

Mr Curran, who represents Walkley and was voted onto the council in May, said his decision was made due to the "lack of resistance" shown by the Lib Dems locally to the cutbacks and the "disgraceful decision" to cancel a government loan to local company Forgemasters.

He said: "I was bitterly disappointed with where the party was going nationally with Nick Clegg and I was also left disillusioned with the lack of resistance shown by the Lib Dems locally with all the savage cuts that have hit this city.

"The disgraceful decision to cancel the Forgemasters loan is a case in point.

"As Sheffield Lib Dem councillors, we were asked to defend what turned out to be a completely unjustifiable decision and it soon transpired that all the reasons in favour of cancelling the loan were just a pack of lies.

"My personal values haven't changed but the political landscape has."

He was welcomed by Sheffield Labour Group' leader Julie Dore, who said: "In fact, the doors are wide open for any other Lib Dems who feel uneasy with the Tory-led coalition and who are sick to death of these spiteful cuts, which are being made too far, too fast and hitting the most vulnerable hardest."

Defection 'orchestrated'

In a written statement, Mr Scriven said the defection had been "orchestrated" to coincide with the start of the Liberal Democrat Party conference starting in Liverpool this weekend.

A Lib Dem spokesman said: "Our national conference is a key opportunity for members and councillors to come together and discuss the issues with Liberal Democrat government ministers.

"It is a shame that Ben did not want to discuss his concerns in this way."

On Thursday, Barnsley's only Lib Dem councillor, Sharron Brook, joined Labour.

At the beginning of this month, three Liberal Democrat councillors in Cheshire resigned from the party in a row over coalition budget cuts.

And in August Liverpool Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Jobling defected to Labour citing the same reasons.

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