THE MAN in charge of closing Shadsworth Leisure Centre has resigned — throwing Blackburn with Darwen Council into a balance of power crisis.

Leisure and culture chief Trevor Maxfield said his conscience would not allow him to make the cuts when the town hall was ‘wasting’ millions of pounds on other projects.

Along with his For Darwen party colleague Anthony Meleady, he resigned from the ruling coalition hours before the £4million cuts were due to be rubber-stamped last night.

The decision leaves the door open for the opposition Labour group to take over.

Labour and the coalition of Conservative, Liberal Democrat and For Darwen now both have 31 councillors each, meaning councillors Maxfield and Meleady, who represent Darwen’s Earcroft ward, hold the key to control.

And their dramatic departure could spell a reprieve for Shadsworth Leisure Centre and the borough’s community centres.

The pair, who are close friends, insisted they would remain independent councillors.

But Coun Maxfield said he would support a Labour move for power if it promised to axe the council’s five Neighbourhood Boards committees, which give out council cash to local projects, and save the Shadsworth centre.

He said: “We were wasting lots of money on neighbourhood boards etc while shutting leisure centres - and my morals didn’t let me go along with it.”

The Labour group has promised to ‘look again’ at the cost-cutting plans if it regains the control of the borough it lost in 2007.

Labour group leader Kate Hollern claimed savings could be found from elsewhere in the council’s budgets to reverse the cuts.

She said: “He (Coun Maxfield) is pushing at an open door there.

"We don’t think the neighbourhood boards serve the purpose they are supposed to.”

The Labour group will decide on Tuesday whether to make the push for power.

Some members want to stay in opposition because they are unwilling to become the face of unpopular spending cuts ahead of crucial local elections in May.

But others believe the party has a ‘moral duty’ to seize control after it led a high-profile campaign against the community centre cuts.

Labour is planning to demand an extraordinary council meeting, where it will propose a vote of no confidence in the leadership.

On trying to regain power, Coun Hollern said: “It’s the only option open to us really.

"The council has been disrupted three or four times in recent years and it needs a stable administration.”

Blackburn MP Jack Straw said he believed the coalition was ‘on its last legs’.

However, some town hall bosses fear the precarious balance of power will leave the council’s leadership unstable going into a crucial period of massive public spending cuts.

Coun Meleady, who was elected in 2008, said he had left the For Darwen Party because he could better serve his ward as an independent councillor.

He would not reveal which side he would support in a vote of no confidence.