Lib Dems and Labour strike deal to run council

SOUTH Gloucestershire Council has new leadership, after the Conservatives lost their majority 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 Claire Young is the new council leader, while Staple Hill & Mangotsfield ward councillor Ian Boulton will be the council’s co-leader, having taken over as the Labour group’s leader following the  retirement of Pat Rooney before the elections.

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.

• 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.

While they are still the largest party, with 23 seats in the chamber, the 20 Lib Dem and 17 Labour members combined take the two parties above the 31 votes needed to command a majority in the chamber.

The Tories lost ten seats at the elections, including one in Frenchay & Downend ward and two in Emersons Green locally. The Lib Dems gained three, including their first in Frenchay & Downend, while Labour gained six overall, including two in Emersons Green. All six Kingswood seats remained Labour.

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

After signing the written agreement to form an administration, Cllr Young 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.”

Cllr Boulton 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.”

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

The new Conservative group leader Sam Bromiley criticised the other parties for not involving his group in discussions on the future leadership of the authority.