A FORMER Labour councillor-turned independent said his family was being 'torn apart' after his support kept the Conservative group in charge of Hyndburn.

Coun Malcolm Pritchard, whose daughter Clare is the borough's Labour deputy leader, said the wrangling had 'ruined' his 60th birthday on Monday.

Power is on a knife edge following last week's local elections. The Conservative group saw its number of councillors drop to 17 from 18.

Labour went up two from 12 to 14 councillors and the number of independents fell from five to four.

Crucially the three-strong ‘Independents in Hyndburn’ group, which includes former Labour man Dave Parkins, could be set to show support for Labour, leaving Coun Pritchard in the position of deciding the fate of the authority.

So far Coun Pritchard, who is the borough’s disability champion, was elected to the authority as a Labour councillor in 2007 and in 2002 before that, before becoming an independent following a fall out.

After pledging to support to the Tories he could be set to be made mayor at the council’s upcoming AGM on Monday.

He said: “It has been a tough decision but I will side with the Conservatives. I have thought a lot about it and spoken to my constituents and the feeling is that the Tories are running the borough well and should be allowed to continue.

“Everyone knows that it is my dream to be mayor this year."

But Labour members are still attempting to persuade him to back them.

Coun Pritchard added: “The issue is tearing my family apart and I hate to do this to Clare but I have to go with what I believe. It is a rotten situation and it ruined my birthday.”

Tory leader Peter Britcliffe said: “We welcome the opportunity to continue working with him and if all goes well at the AGM will remain in control.”

Coun Parkins said that no firm decision on which party to support had yet been made from his independent group.

In a reshuffle in the Labour group has appointed Coun Miles Parkinson as the new group leader. Former chief Graham Jones is set to step down from his role on the authority after winning the race to be Hyndburn’s new MP.