The leader of the Walsall Conservative group has confirmed his party's plan to take control of the council by blocking the appointment of the new mayor.

Speaking after a back and forth week which has seen power seemingly swing from one party to the next, Councillor Mike Bird said that he had been left with no choice but to oppose the appointment of Paul Bott as the first citizen.

Current Mayor Marco Longhi, of the Conservative Party, is due to be replaced by Independent Paul Bott at the Council's AGM on Monday, usually a routine appointment that would be confirmed by all sides.

Walsall Council House

However with the council balanced on a knife-edge after the local elections the role of the mayor has taken on far more importance than is customary.

In the case of a tie in the council the mayor does have the power to cast a deciding vote, a situation which seems increasingly likely to occur following the election.

With the Conservatives winning 30 seats and Labour 26, it is thought that Labour had intended to maintain control of the council by forming a coalition with the two independent and two Lib Dem councillors voted in.

A deal was also reportedly struck with Cllr Bott, an Independent who would side with the Labour coalition in the result of a tie.

This has now been flipped on its head, however, with Cllr Bird confirming that the Conservative group plans to vote down the appointment of the new mayor, effectively keeping Mayor Longhi in place.

Under this arrangement Mayor Longhi would have the deciding vote in a tie, tipping the balance of power to the Conservatives.

"It's with a heavy heart that we find ourselves in this position," he said.

"After the elections I tried several times to have a conversation with Paul Bott, calling him and leaving messages so that we could discuss the arrangement.

"Numbers are numbers, and if we didn't have a majority then that's fine, we've been in opposition before. I had expected Paul to remain apolitical, as he should, and to only cast his vote on a case by case basis.

"But when I heard him coming out with a public statement saying he supported the Labour coalition and explaining what they were going to do, and denigrating our party and our work in the area, I couldn't believe it.

"He didn't even have the courtesy to have a conversation with me about it.

"The Conservatives' share of the vote went up massively in the elections, and the Labour Party's went down.

"Why should an Independent, who has taken it upon himself to make the mayoralty political, get to decide what's best for the people of Walsall after that result?

"Now I really don't believe in taking out the mayor to take control of the council, but after his comments earlier in the week our group called an emergency meeting last night, where I was instructed to try and take control of the council.

"Well the only way of doing that is by blocking Paul Bott as Mayor.

"The way he's come out and attacked us, he's brought this on himself. He just had to sit on his hands, preserve his independence and only give his opinion when it was absolutely necessary, like countless other mayors. But unfortunately he's not done that."

The move was met with disdain by Labour group leader Sean Coughlan, who had been the leader of Walsall council up until the recent elections.

"Well it's very unlikely that I'll still be leader of the council come Monday," he said.

"It's unprecedented what they're planning, it's never been done before, and to use the changeover of mayor to take control is an absolute abuse of the protocol.

"I've always been passionate about my role, and will be very disappointed if it happens like this. But unfortunately that's politics."

It was a view that Councillor Bott, who had hoped to become mayor at the AGM on Monday, shared.

"Why should I seek out Councillor Bird? I'm an Independent, and yes, I felt that the Labour coalition's plans for housing, deprivation and employment were better.

"What he's doing is totally out of order, and nothing like it has ever happened before. It's undemocratic and that's that."

The vote is due to take place at the AGM on Monday.