LONG-STANDING councillor Frank Clifford, has taken the reins of Pendle Labour Party after his colleague Councillor Azhar Ali lost his seat in the town.

The decision to appoint Coun Clifford to the role was made at a Labour Party meeting this week, but the decision as to which party will run the council has yet to be made.

During the last year Pendle was a hung council run by a Labour administration but this year people could see the leadership taken over by the Liberal Democrats who hold 23 seats against Labour's 15 following last week's elections. If Labour manages to keep hold of the administration then Coun Clifford would be in line to take over as council leader.

Coun Clifford, who became the country's youngest councillor at the age of 21 in Nelson's central ward and has represented the Brierfield ward for many years, said he was delighted to be voted into the position of responsibility.

At the age of 66 he said he could see no reason for stopping in his political career.

He said: "As far as the work of the council is concerned there is a challenge that the government has thrown down to us to modernise services and for partnership working, both with the private sector and other local authorities.

"I believe the agenda is designed firstly to bring more money into the community and regional services and, secondly, to create a greater degree of community involvement. I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead the Labour group on this and, hopefully, it will improve things for the people of Pendle. "I am not and have never been a gesture politician.

"I wouldn't want to oppose things for the sake of it. If the Liberal Democrats bring forward anything that seems sensible then I will consider it and probably support it.

"Putting people first is what I am about."

Coun Clifford is currently, among other things, a member of the executive and chairman of the development control committee, and was chairman of the local community health council for eight years.

The administration of the council will be decided at the annual council meeting at Nelson Town Hall on Thursday, May 15.