Labour are aiming pull off a shock coup by seizing control of South Ribble Council tonight.
It is understood the ruling Conservatives are on the verge of having power snatched from their grasp - even though they still retain an overall majority on the troubled authority.
An extraordinary council meeting looks set to oust Tory leader Peter Mullineaux and his cabinet and replace them with an interim opposition team.
Labour leader Paul Foster is tipped to win support from Lib-Dem and independent councillors to take over the reins from Coun Mullineaux, at least until the first business meeting of the new council year on May 17.
But Coun Mullineaux, who is attending a family funeral today and is unable to attend tonight’s meeting, told the Lancashire Post: “I’m disappointed Labour are doing this today. It’s almost like they have looked at the numbers (of members likely to be absent) and seen an opportunity. There’s political gamesmanship here.
“I’m really unhappy I can’t make the meeting. I’m attending my brother’s funeral and can’t get back in time. I asked for the meeting to be put back to next week, but I suppose the numbers don’t stack up then in Labour’s favour like they do tonight.
“I feel the notice of motion stating no confidence in me and the cabinet is completely unacceptable and unwarranted. We have made great strides moving forward. The council is a lot better than it was a number of months ago. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
One opposition councillor said: “Intense negotiations have been going on for the past week - it’s been like a TV drama.
“But, barring any further twists and turns before the meeting tonight - and anything can happen at South Ribble - it now looks like the Labour leader could be installed as interim council leader for the next seven weeks. After that, who knows?”
Labour called for tonight’s extraodinary council meeting following a series of embarrassments, the latest coming two weeks ago when the Conservatives struggled to get their 22018/19 budget passed.
It will consider a motion, proposed by Coun Foster and seconded by Coun Susan Jones, calling for a vote of no confidence in Coun Mullineaux and his cabinet and their immediate removal from office.
The motion reads: “As individuals who are in a position of great responsibility, this council no longer believes that the leader and cabinet are deemed fit to hold that position as they are continuingly failing to carry out their obligations in a diligent and professional manner to the detriment of the local community we represent.
“Therefore this council now has no confidence in the leader and cabinet.”
On paper the Conservatives have a two-seat overall majority. But it is believed at least two Tory members, in addition to the leader, could be away and unable to attend, with the Labour Mayor Coun Michael Titherington able to use the casting vote in the event of a tie.