LABOUR'S vice-like grip on Scotland's biggest local authority has suffered another major setback after the party lost its majority for the first time in four decades.

Councillor Shaukat Butt yesterday resigned from the ruling Labour group on Glasgow City Council over allegations that he assaulted his wife.It comes as the party is gearing up for a fierce battle with the SNP for control of the local authority in May's local elections.

Mr Butt had been suspended from the party since last year because of the charges, and cannot stand because the case will not be dealt with before polling day on May 3. He joins six colleagues who were deselected in a cull in October.

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Last month, Labour narrowly won a knife-edge budget vote, which was wracked by allegations of threats and bullying.

There were also claims that the leadership put other councillors under severe pressure to vote.

Mr Butt supplied one of the two votes which secured the budget victory after the intervention of the city's key Labour power-broker, former Glasgow Central MP Mohammad Sarwar.

He later said he only voted for Labour by accident, having pressed the wrong button.

Mr Sarwar did a deal with Mr Butt where he would be third on the list in his Govan ward and would be re-admitted to the party if he was cleared by the courts.

He will now stand for Glasgow First, the party set up by several disaffected Labour members who were axed.

Several of its candidates collected nomination papers yesterday.

Mr Butt's resignation means Labour has 39 councillors in Glasgow against opposition groups' combined total of 40. It leaves North Lanarkshire Council as the party's only majority council in Scotland.

Mr Butt said: "I was very disappointed personally not to be able to stand as a Labour candidate in the election.

"I want to be a councillor and so that means I have to stand as an independent in the elections and know that means I am not allowed to formally stay part of the Labour group.

"If I am elected, I will be voting with Labour on the council so we can put the people of this city first."

A Scottish Labour spokesman said: "Mr Butt was suspended from the party last September after being charged with assaulting his wife. The court case has not been heard, so Mr Butt remains suspended and cannot stand as a Labour candidate.

"He is keen to contest the local election, which means he can't stay part of the Labour group, but he is continuing to support and vote for Labour."

SNP group leader Allison Hunter said: "The fact that Glasgow Labour is now formally a minority administration is an indictment of the failure of leadership this Council has suffered from for far too long.

"In a few shorts weeks the people of Glasgow will have the chance to elect a united SNP group who will put Glasgow first rather than the current minority administration who can not help but drag this city down."