LOCAL ELECTIONS 2019: Who controls South Ribble now after indecisive vote?
Labour have replaced the Conservatives as the largest party on South Ribble Borough Council.
However, the group did not secure an outright majority and the authority has now slipped into no overall control.
The Tory group lost six seats in the local elections in the district - three each to Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dem gains - which included a clean sweep in the three-seat ward of Howick and Priory - handed the third-largest party the balance of power.
Group leader David Howarth said he will listen to what both the Labour and Tory groups have to say before deciding which party he will support to take control of the cabinet. However, he all but ruled out a formal coalition and indicated his group will make decisions on an issue-by-issue basis.
“We will sit down and discuss things next week and explain our red lines and what we want to achieve.
“For instance, one of our priorities is to encourage recycling and not penalise people for doing the right thing.
“We’re back in a situation where no party has overall control, but that can be made to work,” Cllr Howarth said.
However, he added that it would be “difficult” to work with the Conservatives after developing a fractious relationship with the group in recent years.
Labour group leader Paul Foster said he accepted that there was some “persuading” to be done in order to bring the Lib Dems on board - but agreed that a so-called ‘confidence and supply’ agreement on a vote-by-vote basis was probably the most likely outcome.
“It’s got to be right for them and for us. We need to compromise - that’s what life’s about,” Cllr Foster reflected.
“We need to do what is best for South Ribble and we share many priorities with the Lib Dems, particularly around the environment. I’m sure we can come up with a deal which suits everybody.
“I’m hopeful David Howarth and his colleagues will see the best way forward for the council is working with the Labour group.”
Cllr Foster added that the “hostility” of recent years in the council chamber would become a thing of the past.
“There’s no need for that and one thing I can say is that it will end immediately.”
Meanwhile, Conservative group leader Margaret Smith said she, too, had already arranged to “have a natter” with Cllr Howarth about the possibility of working with him.
“If we have some common ground, you never know where we might land up,” Cllr Smith said.
She also denied that political instability in her group - which has had four leaders in as many years and handed control of the council to the Labour opposition for 17 days last October - had been a factor in the result.
“We don’t deny there have been problems - but it hasn’t been mentioned on the doorstep at all. If that was what had influenced people’s votes, we would have known about it.
“It’s like a family - you can have a falling out, but come back together again and move forward - and that’s what we’ve done.
“The thing that came up more than anything else was Brexit and that has had quite an effect on things.”
There is still another ward to be decided in the election - the vote in Farington West was postponed until next month, following the sudden death last week of Conservative councillor Graham Walton. While the outcome of that poll could change which party has the most seats, none will be able to take overall control.
The Conservatives have led South Ribble outright since 2007. Before that, there was an eight-year period when no single party had a majority.
Turnout at this year's election was just under 36 percent.
TEENAGE COUNCILLOR GETS A KICK OUT OF WINNING
The youngest member in South Ribble Council's 45-year history has been elected to the authority.
Nineteen-year-old Matthew Trafford took a seat from the Tories in the Lostock Hall ward.
"We worked unbelievably hard and presented a really positive, radical message to voters," Matthew said.
"That managed to tune in to a lot of people who might not otherwise engage with local politics."
The political newcomer said he is looking forward to starting work, having already made some interventions from the pubic gallery at full council meetings over the last 12 months.
"There are lots of injustices that have to be addressed - I've got a list of them longer than a Leonard Cohen song.
"But that's for tomorrow, because tonight is for celebrating," he added.
CABINET MEMBER LOSES SET BY 14 VOTES
One of the three Labour gains in the borough ousted a Conservative cabinet member from her seat.
Susan Snape, who had held the finance brief on the authority, was beaten by just 14 votes.
“That’s politics,” she said, philosophically - but admitted she was disappointed.
“Labour campaigned on national issues, but we tried to keep it local.
“Look at our parks and wellbeing programme - let’s hope [Labour] continue with that, because it’s for the benefit of the residents of South Ribble,” she added.
‘THE DIFFERENT PARTIES SHOULD TALK MORE’
A chance encounter during canvassing for this year's local elections in South Ribble has forged a friendship across the political divide.
Conservative candidate Joan Burrows spotted Labour's James Flannery on the street as he was trying to secure support in the final days of the campaign.
In spite of the conflicting rosettes, it didn't stop Joan from pulling over in her car for a chat.
"It turned out James was canvassing for the neighbouring ward of Middleforth," said Charnock candidate Joan at today's count.
"So I introduced myself and we got talking - and that's what we should be doing as politicians, no matter which party we are from."
For James, it was a pleasant surprise when Joan pulled over.
"I was made up Joan stopped - this should be a dignified process and there should be mutual respect between candidates.
"We're all giving our time and having a go - and may the best people win," James added.
And although Joan failed secure the seat she was contesting, while James did win in his ward, the pair renewed their new-found acquaintance at the count this afternoon.