THE Tories have seized power in Bury thanks to the Liberal Democrats.

After 21 years in opposition, they were given the key to the door despite not having an overall majority.

Both parties deny they have made any deals - but the Lib Dems have been given both Bury's seats on the Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Authority (GMPTA). This means Labour will lose control of the GMPTA, with huge implications for congestion charging and public transport across the county.

May's local elections in Bury left the Conservatives with 23 seats, Labour 20 and the Lib Dems eight. But at yesterday's annual council meeting, the Lib Dems abstained on the crucial question of who would run the council. This left the Tories to take charge of the all-powerful executive and the council's annual £300 million budget.

Church ward councillor Bob Bibby is now in charge, ousting Labour's Wayne Campbell as council leader. Coun Bibby said: "The people of Bury got what they voted for in the elections, which is a Tory administration. There have been a lot of contentious issues but I am sure we can resolve them amicably."

He said it was too early to give detailed policies, and denied a deal had been made with the Lib Dems. Giving them the two seats on the GMPTA was a "gesture" on his part, he said. "It was my prerogative and I stand by what I have done," he added.

Lib Dem councillor Andrew Garner defended his party's decision: "The Conservatives won 4,000 votes more than Labour and are now the largest party on the council," he said. "We don't feel we have the moral right to stop them: the electorate are the people who have made the decision. We could not campaign against Labour and take two seats from them, and then keep them in power: it would be very hypocritical."

Coun Garner said it was nice to be offered the PTA seats, but this was not part of any deal.

Lib Dem leader Tim Pickstone added: "It's in the best interest of the people who elected us that we take each issue that comes up on a case by case basis, so we won't be entering into any arrangement or coalition with either of the other parties. But we will be making the most of the increased influence of the Lib Dem team on the council to stand up for sensible policies on issues like the environment, crime and defending good local services."

Labour made one last attempt to stay in power, but were voted down by the Tories with the Lib Dems abstaining.

Coun Campbell said: "As someone who believes in democracy, I have to accept the consequences of the result. We have to make sure we are a credible opposition and not just be there to knock things.

"We will continue to support sensible policies, and hopefully we can work with the new regime to continue the improvements we have seen year on year in this borough."

Coun Campbell criticised the other parties. "They say there are no deals done, but everybody knows a deal has been made. No wonder people don't trust politicians. We would have been happy to do a deal with either party, but why can't you be honest with the public?"

Coun Campbell said that there may be a legal challenge to the Tory's decision to give both PTA seats to the smallest political party.

The new executive line-up and their responsibilities: Bob Bibby - leader of the council Yvonne Creswell - deputy leader, and executive member for community relations.

Diana Ashworth - children and young people Yvonne Wright - health and well being Dorothy Gunther - environmental and transport Peter Redstone - finance Michelle Wiseman - safe and secure communities Iain Gartside - learning skills and employment.

It also includes two positions without portfolios: Labour's Wayne Campbell, and the Lib Dems' Tim Pickstone.

Coun Bibby, a former care home owner, has represented Church ward for eight years, while his deputy Coun Creswell has been a member for neighbouring Elton for seven years.

The longest serving councillor is Dorothy Gunther, first in Ramsbottom then the new North Manor. Yvonne Wright (seven years) and Ian Gartside (three years) are Tottington councillors, while Coun Ashworth was elected just last year in Ramsbottom.

Councillors Redstone and Wiseman both represent Pilkington Park in Whitefield, and Coun Wiseman is the Tory party candidate to take on Ivan Lewis in the next general election in Bury South.