After Thursday’s remarkable local elections, Cambridgeshire County Council now finds itself with no party in overall control. In an earlier article I confidently predicted “the Conservatives are likely to retain control of the County Council by a comfortable margin”, but as it turned out the high level of UKIP support, particularly in the north of the county, meant the Conservatives were unable to hang on to outright control. This is the first time the Council has been in this situation in its present form – before 1998 it also covered Peterborough (now a unitary authority) which tended to elect more non-Conservatives than the rural areas.
The shock result of the election was the defeat of Council group leader Nick Clarke in Fulbourn by his Lib Dem opponent John Williams. Meanwhile, Lib Dem leader Kilian Bourke also faced a tough challenge in his Cambridge seat of Romsey, but won through. The prize for unluckiest candidate in the elections must go to veteran Lib Dem John Batchelor, who lost his seat in Linton to Conservative Roger Hickford by just one vote. Last year he lost the District Council election in Linton, also to Roger Hickford, also by just one vote.
So what does the result mean for the Council? Here’s the balance of power after the last County elections in 2009:
The Conservatives had a comfortable majority of 15. Over the four years that followed, this was reduced a little by various defections and by-elections. Just before last week’s elections, the Conservatives had a smaller but still comfortable majority of nine:
Here is the new Council as chosen by the voters on Thursday:
The combined non-Conservative councillors now outnumber the Conservatives by five, but the three other parties do not quite have enough seats to control the Council between them (quite aside from the implausibility of a Lib Dem/Labour/UKIP alliance). It looks as if the four Independent councillors could play a key role in deciding the policy of the Council. They are:
- John Hipkin of Castle ward in Cambridge
- Mike Mason, who represents Cottenham, Histon and Impington
- Derek Giles and Steven van de Kerkhove, of St Neots Eaton Socon and Eynesbury. Both are former Liberal Democrat councillors.
I expect they are having a busy weekend of it.