THE fate of two councillors could shift the balance of political power in Blackburn with Darwen.

Coun Yusuf Sidat, the Liberal Democrat member for Queen's Park ward in Blackburn, is currently considering his future while on an extended holiday in India.

And fellow Lib Dem councillor Arif Waghat, of Shear Brow ward, will face a judge at Burnley Crown Court today to answer benefit fraud charges.

Blackburn with Darwen Council is finely balanced with the ruling coalition, made up of Tories, Lib Dems and For Darwen members, holding 33 seats and the Labour opposition remaining the largest single party with 31 councillors.

If the councillors had to relinquish their posts, it would leave both groups with 31 councillors and by-elections which would decide who was in control of the borough.

Coun Sidat declined to comment, except to confirm that he had relinquished his planning duties and was staying in India to consider his future.

Coun Sidat was elected to the authority in 2004 as an independent but joined the Lib Dems shortly afterwards.

He recently stood down as the deputy chairman of the borough council's planning committee because of work pressures.

But Coun Colin Rigby, coalition leader, said Coun Sidat was expected to return before the next full council meeting, which will be held a week on Thursday, at Blackburn Town Hall.

He is then expected to inform colleagues of his future plans.

Today Coun Waghat, of Buncer Lane, Blackburn, was due to appear at Burnley Crown Court over allegations that he failed to notify the authorities about a change in circumstances regarding an income support claim.

Coun Waghat was committed to stand trial by Hyndburn magistrates last month.

No plea has been entered to the charge.

If councillors are convicted of any criminal offence which attracts a prison sentence of three months or more they are disqualified from office, under the council's code of conduct.