Lib Dem-Labour deal to run South Gloucestershire Council

SOUTH Gloucestershire Council has new leadership, after the Conservatives lost power at the local elections.

The council’s Liberal Democrat and Labour groups, both of which made gains at the Tories’ expense on May 4, have agreed to work together to form a new administration.

Liberal Democrat group leader and Frampton Cotterell ward councillor Claire Young is the new council leader, while Labour’s Ian Boulton will be the council’s co-leader.

Announcing the partnership deal two weeks after the elections that ended eight years of Tory control of the authority, they set out a series of priorities for the new administration.

They include:

*A shared focus on the climate emergency and helping residents with the cost-of-living crisis.

*A review of how the council makes policy, including local decision-making and more public involvement.

*Sharing the council’s seat at the West of England Combined Authority, and working to improve local buses and the travel network.

The two groups spent a fortnight ironing out details of a deal following the elections which saw the Tories lose their overall majority.

The Conservatives lost ten seats at the elections, although they held both Winterbourne wards locally.

The Lib Dems gained three, including one in Frenchay & Downend, while Labour gained six seats overall, including two in Emersons Green.

There was also one independent gain in the elections, at Labour’s expense.  

While the Tories are still the largest party, with 23 seats in the chamber, the number needed to command a majority in the 61-seat chamber is 31.

The 20 Lib Dem and 17 Labour members’ combined 37 votes gives them an effective majority of 13.

After signing the written agreement to form an administration, Cllr Young, who was elected with an increased margin of victory on May 4, said: “People voted for change in May, following eight years of Conservative rule.

“In discussions with the Labour group it was apparent we had many shared goals to improve the lives of local people.

“We want to take the council in a different direction, working with local people to make South Gloucestershire a better place for everyone. 

Cllr Boulton, who represents Staple Hill & Mangotsfield, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity to put forward a new vision for South Gloucestershire.

“We’re aware of the budgetary challenges at the moment, with the Conservative government failing to fund local authorities properly.

“That can change at next year’s general election.”

Cllr Boulton took over as Labour group leader following the retirement of predecessor Pat Rooney at the elections.

Cabinet members for the new administration were due to be announced following the council’s annual meeting on May 24, when the new leadership was being confirmed in a vote.

While the political groups held discussions the day-to-day running of and decision-making for the authority was managed by senior officers and managers.

Council chief executive Dave Perry said: “The role of officers during this period has been to ensure that the council continues to operate as it should, while supporting members in their conversations, providing, where required, legal and constitutional advice.”

The council’s new Conservative group leader Sam Bromiley, who represents Parkwall & Warmley ward, criticised the other parties for not involving his group in discussions on the future leadership of the authority.

The former cabinet member for children and young people, who took over as Tory group leader after former council leader Toby Savage stood down at the elections, said: “We are disappointed that Labour and the Liberal Democrats have chosen to exclude the largest party from all discussions on how to run the council.

“On several occasions we have offered to meet to discuss how all residents’ views can be reflected in the new council, but each time this was met by silence.” 

Cllr Young said voters had clearly “had enough of the Conservatives”, while Cllr Boulton said voters were “holding the Conservative party to account for the disastrous policies they have imposed on us — both locally and nationally”.

Outgoing Tory leader Toby Savage said his party did better locally than on a national level, where it lost more than 1,000 seats, despite losing its majority in the district on a “disappointing evening”.

He said: “I’m encouraged that a number of colleagues have been returned in wards that might well have fallen to the opposition parties were they to be tracking the national position, which suggests that South Gloucestershire Conservatives are outperforming the Conservatives nationally.”

Picture: Ian Boulton and Claire Young announce their parties’ deal to share power on South Gloucestershire Council.