Councillors react to Lincolnshire County Council coalition plans

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Lincolnshire county councillors have given mixed views on the news that the authority will be run by a coalition for the next four years.

It was revealed yesterday (Thursday) the Conservatives had formed a coalition with LibDems and Independents after losing control of the council in last week’s elections.

The party saw its grip on the council loosen after voters chose 16 UKIP councillors in the elections on Thursday last week.

The Tories’ previous count of 60 councillors dropped to 36, three short of the number needed for a ruling majority on the council.

Council leader Martin Hill (Con) revealed the party had reached an agreement with the council’s three LibDem councillors and several as yet unnamed Independents to form a coalition.

Coun Hill said: “I’m delighted that we have been able to reach this agreement.

“This will give us a firm foundation for the next four years, so the council can continue to focus on the issues that matter most to local people.

“I look forward to working alongside my new colleagues. I’m sure that together we can achieve things that benefit all our local communities.”

Voters returned 16 UKIP candidates at last Thursday’s elections, although none standing in the Mercury area were successful.

The council previously had no UKIP councillors and had been controlled by the Conservatives since 1997.

Coun Hill put the surge in UKIP votes down to national issues like immigration and called on his party to reconnect with “ordinary working people.”

While the Tories saw their count of 60 seats cut to 36, Labour won 12 seats, up eight, and the Liberal Democrats won three, down two.

Eight Lincolnshire Independents were elected, up two, with two Independent candidates also voted in.

Independent councillor John Hicks, who retained his seat in Stamford North, said he would not be joining the coalition.

He added: “I represent the residents of Stamford North first and foremost. Voters elected me above the Tory candidate.

“If benefits for the residents of Stamford were on the agenda at some stage then I might consider working with the Conservatives.

“But I wouldn’t consider it if there was nothing on the agenda that considered Stamford and Stamford’s needs.”

Conservative Sue Woolley, who was re-elected as the Bourne Abbey councillor, said forming a coalition was a “pragmatic and sensible” approach to the situation.

Coun Woolley added: “I am delighted that we now have some firm foundations to move forward.

“Being in a coalition will be different but there are some very fine politicians within the parties which we are forming with.

“They are good, honest, decent people who will make decisions that are best for the people of Lincolnshire and not for political gains.”

Martin Trollope-Bellew (Con), who retained his Stamford Rural seat, said: “You can’t run a minority administration so it is something that had to happen.

“We try to keep political differences inside the council chamber and the members get along fairly well. I hope that everyone will stick to the agreement. At the end of the day we have had to deal with the hand dealt with us by the electorate.

“Most people in this portion of the county are as happy as they can be with the way things have gone for the last four years. Although there were UKIP candidates in South Kesteven they didn’t make that big an impact unlike at the east coast.

“I think overall people were voting on national issues and not county issues. The county council doesn’t have any control over immigration.”

UKIP’s East Midlands regional chairman Chris Pain, who was elected in the Wainfleet and Burgh ward, said the coalition was going against voters’ wishes.

He added: “It is quite amusing that the Tories have gone into coalition with the Lib Dems, which I am sure the people who voted them in would not have wanted.”

Coun Pain said UKIP had not been part of the coalition discussions. He said it was important that councillors did not vote on issues based on party politics but on how best to serve the residents that voted them in.

The council will now appoint a cabinet at its annual meeting on Friday next week.