Lancashire’s closed libraries will be reopened, county finances scrutinised and residents’ needs heeded.
That was the message from the jubilant Tory group leader County Coun Geoff Driver as he swept decisively back to power at County Hall after serving four years in opposition.
Declaring: “I am elated and absolutely delighted we have got control of the county back.”
Coun Driver said the county had listened to his party and liked what it heard.
He said: “We can sort out the libraries and provide the real services the people of Lancashire want...We’ve a big job to do.”
While the Conservatives emerged victorious with 46 seats, Labour got 30 and the Liberal Democrats four.
The county now has its first UKIP Councillor - Alan Hosker ousted Labour cabinet member Coun Marcus Johnstone in Padiham and Burnley West with a lead of 228 votes.
One result was a win for apathy - more than half of Lancashire’s electorate did not bother to vote, with a total turnout of just 37 per cent - 333,417 voters.
The highest percentage turn out was again in Pendle, with Hyndburn second at 42% and Chorley third with nearly 40%. Some 34% of Preston’s, Ribble Valley’s and Lancaster’s voters turned out. Meanwhile in South Ribble it was a 36 % turn out.
Coun Driver, whose majority in Preston North was 1645, was quick to warn that his party’s success must not make them complacent about a general election result.
Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans and Wyre and Preston North MP Ben Wallace attended County Hall to congratulate Coun Driver and his team.
Meanwhile Preston MP Mark Hendrick took comfort from the fact Labour had retained all its existing Preston seats. These included Preston South East which was held by deposed Labour boss County Coun Jenny Mein with a majority of 1672. She said: “Obviously I’m absolutely gutted. I’m really, really sad. We shall be holding the Conservatives to account.”
Commenting on UKIP’s win she said: “I’m absolutely shocked at that. I believe it’s the only gain in the whole of the country and I feel so sad.”
Labour Cabinet member Leyland Councillor Matthew Tomlinson added: “Clearly in the seats where it was always going to be tough we just haven’t done enough.”
Retiring Liberal Democrat leader County Coun Bill Winlow saw his party’s hold slashed from six seats to four and said: “It’s sad because we have lost two very good people. We would like to have more gains - that’s for another time. I am very worried about the future of Lancashire in the hand of Conservatives.”
One Green, County Coun Gina Dowding retained her Lancaster seat and two independent councillors from Fylde will complete the line up at county hall. Coun Driver was quick to warn that his party’s success must not make them complacent about a general election result. See www.lep.co.uk for our video interview with Coun Driver.