ONE of the two independent councillors that hold the key to control of Blackburn with Darwen council has recently joined the Labour Party, the Lancashire Telegraph can reveal.

Former leisure and culture boss Trevor Maxfield admitted his party loyalties lay with Labour but insisted he intended to stay as an independent ‘for the time being’.

But it is unlikely the party hierarchy would allow him to stand between the Labour group and control of the council.

Coun Maxfield, the man charged with making controversial cuts to Shadsworth Leisure Centre, quit the ruling coalition on Thursday along with his For Darwen Party colleague Anthony Meleady.

Their sudden departures leave control of the council finely balanced, with Labour and the ruling coalition both on 31 councillors with the two independents. Both sides are holding meetings on Tuesday to plan their next moves.

Labour is expected to call an extraordinary council meeting in the next few weeks to try and force the Tory-led coalition from power.

Coun Maxfield, who was once a local organiser for the British National Party, said he had joined the Labour Party after May’s General Election.

He said: “It would be wrong of me to be independent then jump ship straightaway. "And I have not spoken to the Labour group about anything like that yet.”

The Earcroft councillor said he had received messages of support from across the borough after the Lancashire Telegraph revealed he was standing down because his ‘morals wouldn’t allow’ him to proceed with the cuts to Shadsworth Leisure Centre .

He has already offered his support to Labour if it proposes to keep Shadsworth swimming pool open while scrapping the borough’s ‘neighbourhood board’ committees.

The current council leadership plans to keep the ‘dry’ facilities at Shadsworth open on weeknights from 4pm to 10pm but the pool will close. It has also agreed to phase out support for community centres gradually to allow local groups to get established.

Tory council leader Mike Lee admitted the future leadership of the borough was ‘uncertain’, adding: “Discussions have to take place, and we will have to wait for the outcome.”