LABOUR’S Julie Cooper is to step down as Burnley Council leader after next month’s European and borough elections.

Coun Cooper, who will continue to represent her Bank Hall ward, said she wanted to concentrate on her campaign to become the borough’s MP at the 2015 General Election.

She will continue to represent her Bank Hall ward as a councillor until her seat is up for re-election in 2016.

Burnley’s Labour members will vote for Coun Cooper’s successor as party leader at their annual general meeting on May 25.

Coun Cooper said: “The next General Election is just too important to demand anything but my full attention.

“Another five years of this vicious and vindictive government, which our current MP supports so enthusiastically, would be disastrous not only for the people of Burnley and Padiham but for the whole of Britain.

“Only Labour will tackle the cost-of-living crisis and provide real opportunities for young people to get on in life.

“It has been a privilege to have the opportunity to lead Burnley Council and I have had two very busy and challenging years. I have led with real enthusiasm and integrity through all that time and I sincerely believe that I have made a positive difference.”

The next council leader will depend on the council’s composition after the borough elections on May 22, with 15 seats - one in each ward - up for grabs.

At present, Burnley Council is made up of 26 Labour councillors, 14 Liberal Democrats and five Conservatives.

Coun Cooper said her work in the interim period would be delegated to Labour’s deputy leader in the council, Coun Mark Townsend.

She said: “In spite of having to cope with the biggest budget cuts in the history of the town we have achieved a lot.

“I have been especially proud to lead an impressive programme of economic regeneration and job creation on sites throughout the borough and this has culminated in Burnley Council been gaining recognition as the most enterprising town in Britain.”

The general election will see Coun Cooper up against Burnley’s current MP, and her predecessor as council leader, Gordon Birtwistle (Lib Dem). No other party has confirmed its candidate.