SHIRLEY West Lib Dem councillor Simon Slater has defected to the Labour Party.
The 28-year-old, who has sat on the borough council since 2006 and isn’t due for re-election until 2014, said it had been a very difficult decision but that it was the actions of his party nationally, not locally, that had pushed him to go.
“Many people in Solihull voted Liberal Democrat in the General Election because of our progressive policies and it seems to me that under the Coalition Government these have been steadily dropped in favour of following a right wing agenda,” said the Elmdon resident.
“I think the people of Shirley West will respect my decision because they voted for the same progressive ideas that I stood for.”
He said close friends and colleagues in the Liberal Democrat Party locally had been very sympathetic, including his mum, Glenis Slater, who’s a Lib Dem councillor for Elmdon.
“She’s been generally supportive and I will continue to represent the people of Shirley West to the best of my abilities,” said Coun Slater, who fought the Meriden seat for the Lib Dems in the General Election in May.
Coun Slater’s decision came on the eve of the Lib Dem Party conference and will be seen as an unwelcome sign of disatisfaction with the direction of party leader Nick Clegg.
As far as Solihull council is concerned, where there is a Libe Dem/Labour coalition, both group leaders said it was business as usual.
Labour leader Coun Mick Corser said: “It is a bit of a strange one, but Simon didn’t agree with the things that were going on nationally and felt he needed to come over and of course we welome him.
“When we set up the coalition we all agreed that we had to be open and talk about issues and we are taking a sensible and pragmatic view of this.”
Council Leader Coun Ian Hedley (Lib Dem), said: “Of course I am disappointed but we will not let it affect the coalition on Solihull Council.
“Simon’s problem is with national policy and of course there are some things you agree with and some you don’t but we are in there fighting for the good of the country.”
At a press conference in Solihull on Friday Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North, welcomed Coun Slater to the Labour fold
He said: “A lot of people, both Conservative and Lib Dem, are reaching the conclusion that the Coalition is cutting too much too fast and risking our economic recovery and are switching their support to Labour.”
David Brittin, chairman of Solihull & Meriden Labour Party said: “I can well understand how Simon, along with many other people who are still in the Liberal Democrats, feel about supporting what will be drastic cuts in public services over the next few years.”