LABOUR has snatched back control of Otley Town Council - and paved the way to a major £300,000 revamp of Otley Civic Centre.

At Monday's emergency meeting -- called by Labour in an attempt to reverse the budget - Labour councillors were accused of making the most of the absence of two Liberal Democrats to swing the vote in their favour.

Labour claimed that the budget, set in January by the Liberal Democrats after Labour failed to win support for its proposals, was a hastily put together "fag-packet" budget that had failed to balance.

During the often bad tempered debate, Labour councillors also accused Independent Nigel Francis of being a Conservative and siding with the Liberal Democrats during voting.

Coun Francis strongly denied being a Conservative - even though he is standing for the party for the city council in the May local elections.

Coun Gerald McGowan (Lab, Manor) accused Liberal Democrats of either incompetence or acting unlawfully over their proposed budget which he said failed to balance by £6,000.

In contrast, he said the Labour budget, now adopted by the council, had been carefully put together and included money for the Market Towns Initiative, The Courthouse Project - which will see the setting up of a community and arts centre - and the information sheet, Otley Matters.

It also covered payments to a new £300,000 loan that the party aims to take out from the Public Works Loan Board to cover the cost of improvements at the Civic Centre.

Liberal Democrats argued that taking out the loan was wrong and would saddle Otley residents for many years to come.

Coun Lawrence Ross (Lib Dem, Ashfield) pointed out that the budget had only been an indication of what the party had wanted to spend and denied that it was unlawful.

Labour councillors want to make Otley Civic Centre fully accessible for disabled users - to fit in with the 2004 Disability Discrimination Act - but also to pay for improvements to enable the large hall fulfil its capability of taking more than 400 people.

Coun John Eveleigh (Lab, Manor) said: "We intend to bring back into use the large hall for 400 to 500 people, it is not just about DDA improvements, it is about making the centre accessible for all."

Coun Eveleigh added that the council needed to show its support for the Market Towns Initiative - which will bring £340,000 into the area in the next three years with the promise of additional matched funding.

In addition, Labour councillors won the vote on the publication of a special issue of Otley Matters which will be devoted to the expansion of public transport in the area - despite opposition councillors claims that it would be little more than an election manifesto for the Labour group.

The newsletter, which will be partly funded by Metro, will give information on the recently announced £962,000 package from the government which will see improvements in buses, school buses and late night services.

Labour councillors have now resumed chairmanship of all the council's committees and sub committees after stepping down in January after failing to get their budget through.