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Friday, 17 May 2019

As Independents seek to create a working coalition, the District Council meets for the first time since local elections > Wednesday 22nd May

Next Wednesday sees the first sitting of the new District Council when a new Chair and a new Leader will be elected:
Agenda for Annual Council on Wednesday, 22nd May, 2019, 6.00 pm - East Devon

It follows on from dramatic results in the local elections:
Futures Forum: BREAKING NEWS: "Bad day" for the Tories as Independents in East Devon gain an overall majority of two
Futures Forum: District Council elections: "Independents deliver blow to the Conservatives'" > further reports

And since then, there have been attempts to create a working coalition:
Futures Forum: District Council coalition talks to 'support the formation of an independent-led administration'

It will not be easy - as the Financial Times reports: 

Britain’s Independent councillors face challenges of success

Local election victors seek to push through change without party discipline or structure


Chris Tighe and Andy Bounds MAY 14, 2019


Independents now control six councils across England, from Middlesbrough to Nottinghamshire, Essex, Surrey and East Devon, and hold the balance of power in several more.
Often Independents coalesce around a common grievance. This month the East Devon Alliance, set up to oppose plans to build thousands of new homes in the area, ended Conservative rule in its region after 45 years.


It seems that there will not be a coalition involving East Devon Liberal Democrats, however: 

East Devon's Lib Dems say 'Independents should run the council' as they confirm they won't join a coalition

The Liberal Democrat Group, currently led by Cllr Steve Gazzard, have said that they respect the verdict of the voters and will not sign up to a formal alliance or agreement with any other groupings or parties.

Daniel Clark Local Democracy Reporter
12:53, 13 MAY 2019

Liberal Democrats in East Devon will not be going into coalition with any other political group in the district, they have confirmed.

Following May’s elections, the Independents ended up as the largest party on the council, ending 45 years of Conservative rule since the council was formed. Twenty Independent councillors were elected, while the East Devon Alliance won a further 11 seats. The Conservatives suffered 15 losses to end on 19, while the Liberal Democrats hold eight seats and the Green Party two.


Between the East Devon Alliance and the Independents, they hold 31 seats, which would be enough to control the council and have a majority, but discussions are still ongoing as to if a coalition between them can be formed an how many Independents would sit with the Independent Group. But the Liberal Democrat Group, currently led by Cllr Steve Gazzard, have said that they respect the verdict of the voters and will not sign up to a formal alliance or agreement with any other groupings or parties.

A statement by the Group said: “The Lib Dem group respects the verdict of the voters in the recent elections that the Independents should be in control of East Devon District Council, after 45 years of Tory rule

...

READ MORE
New Progressive Group formed to 'challenge Exeter's one party state'

Cllr Ben Ingham, the leader of the Independent Group, and who retained his Woodbury and Lympstone seat, said that he was delighted with the results that showed it was very clear the voters do not want the Conservatives to run the council. He said that discussions had begun as to how many of the 20 Independent councillors elected would be sitting in the Independent Group, and he remained hopeful that they all would.

READ MORE
Conservatives pounded at Devon polls as they lose control of six of eight councils


Of the 20 Independents elected to East Devon District Council, ten were newly elected councillors. The other ten include Cllr Ian Thomas, who is still the current leader of the council, but who quit the Conservative Party prior to the election, and Cllr Geoff Pook, who was a cabinet member.


Cllr Ingham said: “We are still talking and trying to work it out and to make everything fit, but at the end of the day, including the East Devon Alliance, there are 31 Independents. We are still in the discussions stage as to how many of the independents will sit in the group, but I remain optimistic they will come as one, and that is my target anyway. Over the next week we will continue have the discussions and trying and pull everything together, although it is not easy as we are all Independents and there is no party whip. I do hope that we can all work together and as many as possible will sit with the group.”

Cllr Cathy Gardner, the leader of the East Devon Alliance group, had previously said that she felt it was unlikely all 20 Independents would chose to sit in the group, but the results showed that the people of East Devon want real change.

Cllr Paul Arnott, chairman of the EDA, and who won a seat in Coly Valley, had added: “We would like to thank the voters of East Devon for electing all 11 of our candidates. We will seek to forge alliances with other councillors willing to work with us to continue to our fight for reform of local governance.”

The new leader of the council will be elected at the annual meeting on Wednesday, May 22.



With further comment:
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