BLAENAU Gwent Labour Party was dealt yet another blow as two leading party councillors quit amid the latest wave of unrest.

Former council leader John Hopkins and David Lyn Elias were the latest casualties of the party that has lost its grip in the Valleys stronghold in recent years.

The Brynmawr councillors announced their joint decision to become independent on Saturday, following recent Labour moves on the possible closures of Brynmawr Foundation School and the town’s Market Hall.

The said they felt the party was not serving the interests of their constituents and wanted to break free to make the residents a priority, rather than politics.

The decision followed discussions at a council education and scrutiny committee meeting last week, at which they said members voted to recommend the Executive reconsider which schools in the area are closed as a result of a proposal put forward by the Labour group.

It was previously recommended Nantyglo Comprehensive School would close but the latest recommendation also includes the closure of Brynmawr Foundation School, which both councillors strongly oppose.

They said they were also angered by Labour’s proposal to close Brynmawr’s Market Hall, which recently underwent £300,000 improvements.

This is the latest blow for a party that was once the leading voice in politics in the borough.

The downfall of the party began with the all women parliamentary shortlist saga in 2005, when Labour refused to back serving Labour AM and stalwart Peter Law as a candidate in favour of Maggie Jones.

Mr Law, who died two years ago this week of a brain tumour, went on to successfully take the once "safe seat" held by the leading lights of the group like MPs Aneurin Bevan, founder of the National Health Service and Michael Foot.

Following Mr Law's death, his wife Trish and his former election agent Dai Davies went on to take his assembly and parliamentary seats in the June 2006 by-election and retained them in the assembly and parliamentary elections that followed.

During that time a number of long-serving Labour councillors quit the party in favour of backing Mr Law and the People's Voice party he formed.

In September 2007 former Labour deputy leader of the council Nigel Daniels was suspended by the Labour group over allegations he breached the council's code of conduct, the details of which is expected to be heard at a tribunal by the Adjudication Panel for Wales next month.

In November 2007, Hedley McCarthy was named as the new Labour group leader after Cllr Hopkins announced his resignation as leader after rumblings that he would face a vote of no confidence by other senior party colleagues.

In May 2008 when People's Voice and independent candidates took 21 seats at the council elections and Labour just 17, the worst seemed to have happened, yet still problems continue.

Following the shock announcement, Cllr Hopkins, who was a member of the Labour Party for 44 years and a Labour councillor for Blaenau Gwent council for 18 years, described his time with the party as "happy and successful".

He said: "I have given it a lot of thought and it was a sad day when I resigned on Saturday but I have no regrets because I believe I’m doing it for the right reasons."

Cllr Elias, who joined the Labour Party 30 years ago and was a Labour councillor for Blaenau Gwent council for 10 years, said his decision followed a catalogue of events.

This included Labour’s decision to suspend him for breaking the party’s rule not to sit on committees outside the council.

He was elected onto the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority in 2007 and was suspended in July last year when he refused to leave the position.

Our policy is fair - leader

Blaenau Gwent Council’s Labour party leader Hedley McCarthy said: "By taking a County Borough wide view no community is advantaged or disadvantaged.

"We have a clear, fair, socialist policy which treats Abertillery, Brynmawr, Ebbw Vale and Tredegar equally, I am therefore mystified how two Labour Councillors should find this a matter of concern."

A Labour spokesman added: "Councillor Hopkins has been increasingly detached from the Labour Party ever since we took action against his then Deputy Leader Nigel Daniels, suspending Councillor Daniels from the Labour Group and his office of Deputy Leader.

"Following that action, and Councillor Hopkins' subsequent removal as the leader of the Labour Group in Blaenau Gwent, Councillor Hopkins has distanced himself from the party. His resignation at this particular time therefore comes as no surprise."