Conservative alliance sees Blunt re-elected as council leader - but Labour's Sheahan highlights 'fragile' arrangement

By Graham Hill

23rd May 2023 | Local News

Labour councillor Sean Sheahan and council leader Cllr Richard Blunt
Labour councillor Sean Sheahan and council leader Cllr Richard Blunt

The composition of North West Leicestershire District Council has been described as 'deadlocked' and 'fragile' - after a Conservative leader and chairman were elected at last night's (Tuesday) annual meeting in Coalville.

But the Conservatives defended their right to form an alliance with the Liberal Democrats against Labour, who had returned the largest number of councillors - 17 - at the May 4 elections.

However, Labour did not win enough seats to gain overall control and were edged out in council with Conservative Cllr Richard Blunt retaining his position as leader.

A vote was needed to decide who would be council leader and the new chairman, taking over from Cllr Russell Boam.

Both votes were tied at 19 each, which meant the casting vote for chairman fell to Cllr Boam who was in favour of Conservative Cllr Ray Morris - ahead of the Labour nomination, Cllr Terri Eynon.

When it came to electing a new leader, the vote was between Labour Cllr Sean Sheahan and the previous Conservative leader, Cllr Blunt.

Again, the vote was tied at 19 each, and the casting vote fell to newly elected council chairman, Cllr Morris - and he chose Cllr Blunt to regain a position he had held for the previous four years when the Conservatives had control.

Cllr Sheahan had issued an open letter to every councillor before the meeting, calling for their co-operation for a Labour-led minority administration.

But Cllr Blunt said: "We have formed an alliance of maybe four parties with the differing Independents.

"We needed to make a majority in this room. I don't believe any party should be here as a minority as you won't get business done."

Cllr Sheahan added: "We don't so much have a hung council here, more of a deadlocked council.

"I think either of us could be in control in six months' time. We need to agree a protocol in sharing briefings and examine whether the Government's governance model is the best under the circumstances.

"It's something we need to seriously look at. We need to be in a position to take control if this arrangement falls apart - and I have to say, it does look rather fragile."

But Cllr Blunt added: "We have formed an alliance of maybe four parties with the differing Independents.

"We needed to make a majority in this room. I don't believe any party should be here as a minority as you won't get business done."

Labour Cllr John Legrys responded to the vote and said: "We are the largest party in this council - irrespective of the different groups that have formed in the past week or so, following meetings you guys had with the Local Government Association.

"We're fully aware of that and you're perfectly entitled to do it.

"I'm a co-operator, but I'm not a capitulator.

"The voters of North West Leicestershire voted for 17 Labour councillors, 14 Conservatives, five Liberal Democrats and four Independents.

"It is able to do under law, what you have done.

"Including the casting vote. The council for this year, until it breaks up, will only be here due to the Conservative chair's casting vote.

"This is how the council is going to be controlled. Chair, I welcome your message of co-operation, but we won't capitulate from any of our principles."

But Independent Castle Donington Cllr Tony Saffell produced figures of his own.

He said: "I took time to do some analysis, I can challenge some of the things said.

"In the election we've just had, the Labour Party got 8,735 votes, the Conservatives got 9,821 - nearly 1,100 more, but with five seats less.

"If you add the alliance together, it gives you 13,475 votes, getting on for double what the Labour Party got.

"That's why the alliance is together, we got a lot more votes, and why we decided to join them and not do deals with anybody else. It's what the people of the district wants - we're working on an alliance programme, not a Conservative one."

     

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