Heather Joyce tonight survived a backbench Labour rebellion to keep her job as the leader of Cardiff council, but the deputy leader post hangs in the balance.
Coun Joyce was re-elected leader of the Cardiff Labour group meaning she keeps her £52,000 job as the head of Wales’ biggest local authority.
Labour’s 46 councillors voted in a secret ballot at County Hall and applause broke out when the result was announced at 7.45pm.
The margin of Coun Joyce’s victory over Riverside’s backbench councillor Phil Hawkins was not disclosed to the group. Opposition parties claimed that despite Coun Joyce’s win, the challenge had damaged her leadership.
Trowbridge’s Ralph Cook, however, still faces a battle to keep his job as deputy leader of the council. After two rounds of voting, he remained tied with challenger Ramesh Patel.
The Labour group’s annual general meeting was adjourned at 9pm and voting will resume next week.
In other results, former council leader Russell Goodway was ousted as group treasurer by Plasnewydd’s Mary McGarry.
The result does not affect his role as cabinet member for finance and economy, but reflects the clear divide in the group.
Coun Joyce, who last week presented Cardiff City with the Championship trophy, declined to comment when approached last night.
In a statement, she said: “I am extremely pleased to have been returned as leader again. Our first year in office after a disastrous Plaid/LibDem administration has been one of delivery.
“I am hugely looking forward to working with all members of the Labour group to deliver on our manifesto commitments for the people of Cardiff.”
The leadership challenge was launched last week by a group backbench councillors disgruntled at not being kept involved in the decision-making process.
Coun Hawkins, who had promised to unite the group by consulting more widely, last night said: “I’m clearly disappointed not to have won, but perfectly happy that Heather is still there and will give her my full backing.”
Asked what Coun Joyce needed to do to heal the rift, he said: “We’ve talked about that tonight and I think she’s already got ideas. I think she’s got to communicate with the group a lot more, so do the whole cabinet and indeed they’ve made that promise tonight.
“When the instruction came out not to speak to the press (last week) that really was because it was an internal matter. I wasn’t proposing different policies to the ones that were already there.
“When it’s policies I think it’s right that it’s out in the public, but when it’s internal stuff it’s not really in the public’s interest to know what is going on.”
Plasnewydd’s Sue Lent defeated Splott’s Gretta Marshall for the role chief whip, while Canton’s Chris Weaver and Riverside’s Iona Gordon were elected deputy whips.
The leadership challenge comes just 12 months after Labour took back control of County Hall in a stunning election victory, ousting the previous Liberal Democrat/Plaid Cymru administration.
Conservative group leader David Walker said: “A challenge this early in Heather Joyce’s tenure as council leader is damaging and undermines confidence in the city.
“Clearly the writing is on the wall. I believe she should go with dignity within six months allowing more suitable candidates to come forward.”
Councillor Judith Woodman, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “My congratulations to Coun Joyce for retaining her position as leader of the dysfunctional Labour group.
“As long as they continue with their infighting there will be no benefit to Cardiff from their administration, as it will take the next few years for them to learn to come together and deliver something for this city.”
Plaid Cymru group leader Neil McEvoy said: “The win for the council leader is hollow and shows that the Labour group is riven with divisions, with careerist councillors interested in themselves and not Cardiff.
“In a personal sense I feel sorry for her with such an untrustworthy bunch of back stabbers as a group of colleagues. The council leader is politically wrong and misguided, but is essentially a decent person.
“It is not a pretty sight to see the factions lining up to stab her.”