THE defection of a councillor to the Green Party has left a council Labour group clinging or to power by its fingertips.

Whitewell ward's Cllr Julie Adshead's switch of allegiance has left it as a minority administration in Rossendale Borough.

May's local elections left Labour with 18 councillors, the Conservatives with 15, the Community First Party with two and one Independent Janet Whitehead.

Shortly afterwards Greensclough’s Cllr Jimmy Eaton was suspended by the Tory Party for standing unsuccessfully as an Independent in the Lancashire County Council elections against Cllr Margaret Pendlebury.

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

The meant Labour was dependent on the support of Community First and Independent councillors to keep power and in the last resort the casting vote of the party's Mayor Cllr Jackie Oakes.

The defection of Cllr Adshead, who was the Labour group's Champion for Climate Change, means that casting vote can no longer be relied on and the ruling party needs the support of at least one non-Conservative in any key votes.

She is the first Green Party councillor ever in Rossendale.

Labour group and council leader Cllr Alyson Barnes said: "I am not surprised. Julie joined the party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership and was very committed to him. I think it is a shame. Julie has done some excellent work on the council's policy on climate change."

Cllr Adshead said: "I have been disappointed to discover that the Labour Party are not as serious about the climate emergency as they had claimed, particularly given the new leadership.

“I believe it is vitally important to be true to one’s principles. I have made the decision to move to the Green Party as this is where my core values are best represented."

Green Party deputy leader Amelia Womack said: “I’m delighted to welcome Julie to her true political home.”

Cllr Pendlebury, now leader of Rossendale Council Conservative Group, said: "I am pleased Julie has defected. It is one less Labour councillor. Our party is committed to the green agenda."

Cllr Jimmy Easton said: "I will not be supporting any Conservative challenge to Labour leadership."