THE balance of power at Scotland’s largest council is on a knife-edge following the sudden resignation of a member of its ruling administration.

Chris Kelly has heaped more pressure on his party’s leadership at Glasgow City Council after he stood down as an elected member with immediate effect, having secured a job away from politics.

Although the move will not trigger a by-election, being just five months from next May’s local government poll, it means Labour now has only 39 councillors on the authority, the same as those on the opposition benches. It started the current council term with 45 members.

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It comes as it emerges that a former deputy leadership candidate for Scottish Labour has failed in his attempt to get selected by is local branch.

Bill Butler, an MSP from 1999 until 2011 and currently the city council's licensing chairman, did not secure enough votes in Pollok to be put forward as the area's labour candidate for next May.

A coup against Labour is unlikely so close to the election but will give the administration’s leaders countless headaches in the months ahead as they face the prospect of being outnumbered on some committees and its plans and policies thwarted.

It could also see its budget next February defeated, leaving it in effect a lame duck administration for the last few months of the council term.

The administration’s chief whip has issued a series of warnings to Labour councillors over their attendance, with a number of those not standing again increasingly absent. At the last full council meeting Labour was outnumbered by the opposition.

It has only been saved from operating as a minority administration due to the party lifting the three-year suspension imposed on one controversial member, Sohan Singh

Mr Kelly, who had only been a councillor since the 2012 elections, stood down on Friday to take up a politically-restricted post with the HMRC.

A former head of the council’s licensing committee, he is understood to have been unhappy at being removed from the position.

One source said: “Chris was very well respected across the board on the licensing committee. Still though not exactly a sign of confidence with another member of the 2012 intake heading for the exit door.”

Another said: “The HMRC job politically restricted so he had to go at first opportunity. He’s been looking for a job in the non political sphere since (former Labour MSP) Patricia Ferguson lost. The only small mercy is we won’t have a by-election.”

Susan Aitken, leader of the council’s SNP group, said: “The Labour group is characterised by panic, infighting, walkouts, no-shows and a total lack of ideas or apparent interest in anything other than trying to cling on to the remnants of power for its own sake.

“While they obsess over arithmetic and internal spats, we will continue to hold them to account over issues like their poorly conceived privatisation of ICT services and dreadful employment relations record of strikes and disrupted services.”

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A Labour group spokesman said: “We will continue to build the local economy to create jobs, invest in the city’s schools and find new ways to deliver improved services to the people of the city. That stands whether the voting numbers in the council are on a so-called ‘knife-edge’ or not.”

Meanwhile, Mr Kelly's departure has created another opening for Mr Butler, who represented the wider area when at Holyrood.

One source said: "Bill and (Cllr) Rashid Hussain had been visiting party members homes together in the weeks leading up to the selection meeting asking for support.  They had split the ward in terms of first and second preferences however something's gone wrong and now Butler is out. 

"He left the meeting the minute he found out the result without speaking to anyone so he's not a happy bunny. 

"Now he has no option but to try and get somewhere else."