Lancashire County Council elections: Tories secure victory as Labour blame national backdrop
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The party captured 48 seats - two more than at the last county poll in 2017 - comfortably surpassing the 43-seat threshold needed for it to remain in power for the next four years.
County Cllr Keith Iddon said he believed the party had secured victory because it had delivered on the promises it made at the last county vote in 2017.
“We turned the county council around from having a £200m deficit. We put all the services back and now the residents have chosen us to lead them on into the future - and we won’t let you down.
“The priority now is to get us out of the Covid pandemic as best we can - we have put millions into a recovery fund and are tapping into the government’s [financial] pipeline as well.
“I want to get Lancashire moving again and keep investing in all the things we do and keep building it up, better and stronger.
“We also need to continue with the good work we have done in putting the [council’s] services in order. But we have to keep our eye on the money and our fiscal responsibilities - and as long as we do that, and I will, then we’ll be fine,” said County Cllr Iddon.
He was speaking moments after the deadline had passed for nominations to be the next leader of the Tory group - and, in the wake of the election result, the next leader of the county council. The position is vacant after Geoff Driver - who has led the authority for the eight out of the last 12 years decided to step down at this election.
County Cllr Iddon has submitted his nomination papers for the top job in the party, which will be determined in a secret ballot of Tory group members. It is not yet known whether he will have any challengers for the post.
Like the Conservatives, Labour also gained two seats on their 2017 result, securing a total of 32 - but did not come close to threatening Tory control at County Hall.
Labour opposition group leader Azhar Ali said the wider political backdrop had prevented the party in Lancashire from retaking the county council.
“There is a national Tory bounce on the back of the vaccination rollout, despite almost 130,000 people having died - and it’s very difficult to swim against a tide that was in favour of the Conservatives in these elections.
“But I’m really proud that we have retained most of our seats - we have won some seats in Rossendale and Chorley, but have also lost some long-serving councillors, which is disappointing,
“Generally we held out our vote and if the election had been a few months earlier or later, it could have been a different result - but the national Conservative bounce has taken them over the line.
“Whoever the leader of the council is, we will try and be a constructive opposition - but we will hold them to account,” County Cllr Ali warned.
Elsewhere, the Green Party added a second county councillor to their number on the authority, while it was a disappointing day for the Liberal Democrats, who lost two seats - one of which was previously held by county group leader and veteran councillor David Whipp.
Independent representation on the council was also wiped out, with the authority having had four members not aligned to a political party before this week's vote.