ROSSENDALE Council’s Conservatives have elected a new leadership as two of its councillors moved to sit as Independents.

Cllr Margaret Pendlebury, who represents Greenfield, will take charge of the group, with newly-elected Goodshaw councillor David Foxcroft as her deputy.

Thursday’s local elections left the authority in no overall control with Labour having 18 councillors, the Conservatives 15, two sitting Community First representatives and a new Independent Janet Whitehead who beat Labour in Facit and Shawforth ward.

Labour also lost Goodshaw to Cllr Foxcroft but picked up the vacant Stacksteads ward.

The Conservatives also won Whitewell ward, previously held by Pam Bromley as an Independent after being expelled from the Labour Party.

This left the council evenly balanced as Labour lost control.

Now Greensclough’s Cllr Jimmy Eaton has been suspended by the Conservative Party for standing unsuccessfully as an Independent in the Lancashire County Council elections against Cllr Pendlebury.

His wife Janet, who represents Irwell, has joined him by leaving the council Conservative group to sit as an Independent cutting the official Tory representation to 13.

At Rossendale Council’s annual meeting on May 21, Labour leader Cllr Alyson Barnes will propose it should form a new borough administration.

With the Community First councillors supporting current Labour deputy mayor Jackie Oakes to take over as first citizen and chairman of the council, her casting vote would give the party control.

Cllr Pendlebury said: “I’m delighted to be able to take the lead for the Conservatives. The elections have shown that there is a real desire for change across the Valley.

“Labour no longer have control of the council.

"There needs to be a fresh start and a new approach.”

Neil Shaw, chief executive of Rossendale Council said: “Last week’s elections have seen the Conservatives gain seats.

“With no one party having a majority we have been discussing with the leaders from each party the implications. I do not anticipate any change in the leadership of the council.”

Before the election Labour had 19 councillors and the support of Cllr Bromley while the Conservatives had 12 councillors and the support of expelled members David Stansfield and Val Roberts who both stood as Independents but failed to win.