PLANS to reduce the number of Wirral council elections as part of a wider bid to save money were rejected.
Council bosses wanted to scrap the current system of holding polls three out of every four years and replace it with one “all-out” vote every four years.
Officials said the move could save £100,000 in 2015-16 and the same in 2016-7 – but faced criticism that it would make the council less accountable to voters.
The Conservative group’s leadership forced a vote by the full council to block the plans when it met at Wallasey town hall on Monday.
They said annual elections allow people “to pass judgement on the policies pursued by those chosen to lead the council” – although the Tory group’s own chief whip, Cllr Chris Blakeley, admitted supporting the proposed changes.
Cllr Blakeley said his views were personal and he supported his party’s motion – but Labour still saw the division as embarrassing for their opponents.
Council leader Phil Davies said he was “amazed” when he saw the comments made by Cllr Blakeley on Twitter.
He said: “I assumed the Tories were with one voice on this and clearly they are not. Here we have a senior Tory saying what we proposed was a good idea.”
Cllr Blakeley had Tweeted last November, after the proposals were first published, saying: “As an individual it’s not a problem to me I have been advocating that for years.” He copied in his group leader Jeff Green.
But Cllr Blakeley insisted it was a personal view, adding: “Everyone is allowed an opinion.”
He said: “I am happy to support the group’s line that we want to maintain the current democratic process.”
The strongly-worded motion titled “Attack on democracy in Wirral” was proposed by Cllr Green and his deputy Lesley Rennie.
In it they accused Labour of seeking to “abolish local elections” and returning to “its authoritarian ways”.
But Cllr Davies said that was “ludicrous” and the change would reduce costs “substantially”. His group voted down the Tory motion.
But Cllr Davies admitted he it now looked unlikely he would secure the two-thirds support of the council to vote for the change, despite apparent public support in recent consultation on budget options.
He said: “Many other local authorities, including Conservative ones, only have elections every four years.”