TWO long-serving councillors who quit the Blaenau Gwent Labour Party would be welcomed into the Independent group "with open arms", according to the council leader.

Former council leader John Hopkins and David Lyn Elias resigned from the party at the weekend after becoming increasingly unhappy with the group’s politics.

The Brynmawr councillors’ decision to become independent followed recent Labour moves on the possible closures of Brynmawr Foundation School and the town’s Market Hall, which they strongly opposed.

It is not known whether either councillor will enter into talks with the council's independent group or People's Voice, the movement which sprang up in the area during the row about the imposition of an all-women Labour shortlist on the Blaenau Gwent constituency for the parliamentary elections which led to Peter Law leaving the party and winning the seat as an independent.

Blaenau Gwent's independent council leader Des Hillman said Cllrs Hopkins and Elias would be welcome additions to the party and commended their move.

He said: "I am pleased for them and I’m pleased for the people of Blaenau Gwent because I believe they did it for the right reasons and for the benefit of Blaenau Gwent."

People’s Voice leader and Blaenau Gwent MP Dai Davies said the party was in no rush to enter into talks with the councillors about joining at the moment, but that the party would consider any application made to the party on merit.

He said members of the party had known both councillors for a considerable amount of time and any applications put forward would be considered.

Mr Davies said: "Our party’s open for anyone to apply as long as they are not a member of another party."

Labour now has just 15 of the council's 42 seats, with independents having 20 and People's Voice candidates sitting in five, and the Liberal Democrats in two.