Byline: Larry Neild
LIVERPOOL'S political masters are to launch their "Plan B" to reengage inner city communities after the Liberal Democrats lost four seats to Labour in the town hall elections.
Leader Warren Bradley wants his B for Bradley plan to carefully look at housing renewal schemes that have left many communities devastated by boarded-up homes.
He is leading the council into its 10th year of Lib-Dem rule with a double-digit margin that has reduced from a peak of 40 seats in 2002 to today's slimmed-down 12.
It was 2002 that saw the Lib-Dems, then led by Mike Storey, holding 70 of the then 99 council chamber seats, its highest ever tally. In the same year, Labour was reduced to its lowest ever count for generations, only 20 councillors. The council has meanwhile shrunk to 90 members, but Labour's Joe Anderson has nibbled away at the Lib-Dems' grip, with the Lib-Dems holding 51 seats to Labour's 35.
The big question today is what will happen next May when Liverpool's 324,000 voters decide who should rule the roost during European Capital of Culture year.
Cllr Anderson is confident that Labour will make one big push to re-take the town hall hot seat, while Cllr Bradley argues that his team will stay in power for some years to come.
To gain overall control, the Labour group need to hold on to the seats they defend next year, and make 11 gains to reach the vital 46 to guarantee control.
Last year, Labour won three and this year ended up with four gains at the expense of the Lib-Dems. Even if they went one better next year and bagged five gains, it would still leave the Lib-Dems with that magical 46. It would make life at the town hall nail-biting, and would see councillors dragged from their sick-beds for key votes.
If Labour supporters in Liverpool continue to buck the national trend and support the party locally, it seems likely that the best they can hope for is a hung council.
THAT could still see Warren Bradley running the show if the four minor-party councillors agreed a deal.
It could even see Lib-Dem defector John Coyne, the council's only Green member, becoming a critical power-broker. Political pundits believe that Labour's task will be daunting. Next year, Labour will be defending 10 of their 35 seats. The Liberal Democrats will defend 19 seats, with Liberal leader Steve Radford likely to retain his seat.
If Labour lose Croxteth, as they did this year, it will make the task even harder. The Lib-Dems will be defending some of their fortress seats, such as Allerton and Hunts Cross, Childwall, Church, County, Cressington, Greenbank, Woolton.
Cllr Bradley is also up for re-election in Wavertree.
Vulnerable seats could be Kensington where veteran Frank Doran faces tough competition after the defeat of ward colleague Richard Marbrow and this year's Lord Mayor, Joan Lang, in Warbreck, which also fell to Labour on Thursday.
With no elections taking place in 2009, it means that an unsuccessful assault next year will guarantee Lib-Dem rule for some years. …