WYRE Forest councillor Mike Price has defected from the Liberal party to the ruling Conservative group in a shock move just weeks after being appointed Mayor of Kidderminster.
District councillor Mr Price, 62, was unavailable for comment this morning but The Shuttle understands he left the Liberal and Independent group - which is in a strategic alliance with the Tories - following a leadership dispute.
It means the make up of Wyre Forest District Council is now Conservative: 16, Labour: 9, Independent Community and Health Concern (ICHC): 7, UK Independence Party: 5, Independent: 4, Liberal: 1.
It does not change the balance of power, however, as the Conservatives and the Liberal and Independent group - which contains two former Tories in Julian Phillips and John Aston - announced last week they had entered into a 21-member alliance to form a "stable administration" on the 42-member council.
Wyre Forest Conservative group leader Marcus Hart said: "I am delighted to welcome him into the Conservative group from the Liberal group. Mike was a member of the Liberal and Independent group who we have formed an alliance with but I think he feels the Conservative party offers the best deal for the residents of Wyre Forest.
"We had a strong group before and now we have another member and look forward to working with the Liberal and Independent group for the good of Wyre Forest."
Fran Oborski - who is now the council's sole Liberal councillor - said: "People move from one party to another but I do have to say I believe that when people make such a drastic change they owe it to the electorate to stand down and stand again for re-election and let the people of Offmore and Comberton [Mr Price's ward] decide whether they want a Conservative representing them or not."
Mr Hart said: "The reality is Mike is up for re-election next year anyway. Politicians across the political divide have switched parties and inevitably they have to stand for re-election again at some point and if they are a good councillor they will get re-elected."
The move comes just two weeks after Mr Price was appointed Kidderminster Mayor. It also follows an interview in last week's Shuttle when Mr Price praised Mrs Oborski and her late husband Mike, who he described as his "very, very best friend".
He was first elected to the council as a Liberal in 2007.