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Cross party talks go on to determine future running of Cambridgeshire County Council but local Tory unhappy with opposition parties




The former Conservative leader of Cambridgeshire County Council says his offer of “working together” with other parties after last week’s election has been spurned.

Steve Count, who represents March North and Waldersley on the council has expressed his “deep upset” that the county council has no overall controlling party.

And he accused Labour and the Liberal Democrats of misleading their voters by “getting into bed together” before the election was even held.

Steve Count pictured with Wisbech councillor Steve Tierney at last Friday's (7) count where the Tories took every county council seat in Fenland.
Steve Count pictured with Wisbech councillor Steve Tierney at last Friday's (7) count where the Tories took every county council seat in Fenland.

Coun Count launched his attack on the opposition groups in an online blog on Wednesday and started by underlining his own personal disappointment as well as that of his group that the authority is once again ‘hung’.

He goes on to accuse both the Labour and Liberal Democrats together with the newly elected four independents of having given “clear indication” they want to form their own ruling group.

However, the leaders of both Labour and the Lib Dems declined to comment on Coun Count’s blog.

Cllr Lorna Dupree.jpg (47100604)
Cllr Lorna Dupree.jpg (47100604)

Labour’s Elisa Meschini said: “I have no comment on the blog Steve Count has put out this morning. The Labour group is currently in cross party talks to try to reach an agreement on the way forward and we are concentrating on those for the time being.”

Lorna Dupré, leader of the Lib Dems at East Cambs, reiterated those sentiments and said: “It would be completely inappropriate to talk about the talks that are going on between parties. As you would expect we are very aware of the need to form some sort of administration for the county council for the foreseeable future, and we are working hard to achieve that.”

While her group's leader Lucy Nethsingha told our sister paper the Cambridge Independent: "There are conversations being had and I will be talking with Labour colleagues and the independents, many of whom I know. I hope very much that we will see a bit of a change of direction in Cambridgeshire. That’s what I’ll be making the case for.”

Liberal Democrats' leader Lucy Nethsingha (left) with Labour's Elisa Meschini. Picture: Keith Heppell.
Liberal Democrats' leader Lucy Nethsingha (left) with Labour's Elisa Meschini. Picture: Keith Heppell.

Leader of the independent Tom Sanderson told the local Democracy Reporting Service he has had provisional discussions with the leaders of the Labour and Lib Dem groups.

And added: “I think we’re more inclined to look towards a new administration at the county council, but I will talk to Steve if he wishes to do so."

In his blog Coun Count said: “As leader of the Conservative group at the County Council, both me personally and the entire group were deeply upset by the fact that Cambridgeshire County Council would go back into no overall control.

The leader of the independent group, Tom Sanderson (47100636)
The leader of the independent group, Tom Sanderson (47100636)

“Whilst there are many factors, the main one is the pre-election decision that Labour would not field candidates in six marginal seats, where the Liberal democrats and Conservatives were the main contenders. This political manoeuvre replicated by the Liberal Democrats not fielding candidates in the four successful independent seats.

"Although there are a myriad of reasons, some of which I must carry personally on my shoulders, the fact is the electorate did not return the Conservatives with enough seats to form an administration.

“However, the electorate did still indicate that their faith in the Conservatives as a single group far outweighed that of any other. We hold 28 seats, 40 per cent more than the Liberal Democrats’ 20, almost three times Labour’s nine, and then there are four independents.

“We have been in no overall control, three years of which I acted as leader. Although it can be slower and less decisive on occasion the committee system does lend itself to a more consensual form of less aggressive politics.

“Which is why when Conservatives regained control in 2017 we never sought to return to a cabinet system. As leader of the largest group, I therefore reached out to the other groups, to suggest we try and work together under a shared system, as we did once before. However, I have met with no real engagement and a clear indication that the opposition feel that Labour, Liberal Democrats and the independents form a ruling group.

“The offer remains, collaboration rather than confrontation, and my phone remains on at my side. As we prepare for opposition, I wonder if the public will be happy with their choices.

“Cambridge city voters, who having been convinced by labour or Liberal Democrats that theirs is the superior party, only to find out that their elected councillors have already got into bed with the opposition, before the election campaign started.

“Independent councillors in St Neots and Huntingdon, who told the public, we think independently and cannot be told what to do. Instantly selling their votes and independence at the first opportunity.

As leader of the largest group, I therefore reached out to the other groups, to suggest we try to work together under a shared system, as we did once before.

“However, I have met with no real engagement and a clear indication that the opposition feel that Labour, Liberal Democrats and the independents form a ruling group.

“The offer remains, collaboration rather than confrontation, and my phone remains on at my side. As we prepare for opposition, I wonder if the public will be happy with their choices.

“Cambridge city voters, who having been convinced by Labour or Liberal Democrats that theirs is the superior party, only to find out that their elected councillors have already got into bed with the opposition, before the election campaign started.

“Independent councillors in St Neots and Huntingdon, who told the public, we think independently and cannot be told what to do. Instantly selling their votes and independence at the first opportunity.”



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