A LABOUR councillor has resigned from Wigan Metro Labour Group.
Coun Christine Cottam’s surprise resolution to quit the ruling group to join the Independents gives the group the same number of councillors - with eight members - as the Conservatives.
And that means that there isn’t a clear official opposition at the town hall for the first time since the formation of the Metro in 1974.
It also means that the Tories, who are allocated official positions on outside bodies such as Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Authority and Greater Manchester Fire Authority as the biggest opposition group, will be in talks with town hall bosses over having to give up at least one of them for the Independents.
The Conservatives were hit by their own resignations when the four Fairhurst family councillors quit to form their own Wigan Independent Conservatives group.
Dr Cottam, (pictured) a former United Nations officer who represents Leigh East, has earned a reputation for being “very much her own person” at the Metro.
She has voted against the Labour whip and even attempted a ‘call-in’ of a decision by the Labour Cabinet.
Last year she was fined £200 after appearing at Wigan Magistrates’ Court to deny an attack on former rugby league star Colin Tyrer after the pair had an alleged altercation while walking their dogs.
She has appealed againt the court’s ruling.
A 62-year-old campaigner for disabled rights who is herself visually impaired, she faces re-election in May, having been first elected in 2007.
In a short statement about her decision to resign from Labour, she said: “It’s less political than personal, really.
“I feel it’s time to approach life from a different perspective.
“This includes devoting more time to my charitable interests and of course my family.”
Labour leader Lord Smith said: “I am neither surprised nor disappointed by Coun Cottam’s resignation from the Labour Group.
“She was not selected to be a Labour councillor at the next elections and this clearly influenced her decision.
“For some time her behaviour has been unpredictable and she recently has been found guilty of an assault on a member of the public. Such behaviour has been an embarrassment to the council and the Labour Party.”
But Independent Group leader Coun Gary Wilkes hailed the defection as great for the group and the political shape of Wigan town hall.
He said: “This is fantastic news for us and I personally warmly welcome a bit of ‘girl power’ to the Independent Group which has now become one of the most dynamic political groups on the Metro.
“I am sure her undoubted knowledge and expertise will help us reinforce our founding political beliefs in supporting our communities in these very difficult times ahead.
“Part of her decision to join us, I believe, can be put down to the influence of Coun Norman Bradbury, who has been working so hard in that part of the borough.”
Coun Bradbury said: “I had a discussion with Coun Cottam in which she told me she had resigned from Labour and I asked her, ‘aren’t you going to join our group?’
“I said I would send her an email asking her officially to join and she responded positively that she wanted to join the Independent Group.”