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Ashtead Independents defy electors’ preference and support Conservatives

May 25, 2011 7:00 PM

At the Annual Meeting of Mole Valley District Council, the votes of the Ashtead Independent group were decisive in electing Conservative James Friend as Council Leader - even though his party is not the largest on the Council. James Friend then announced a coalition between the 2 groups to form a joint administration.

The decision followed two weeks of fruitless negotiation among the 3 largest groups on the Council following the elections on 5th May. Throughout the negotiations, the Liberal Democrats maintained that the eventual Administration should reflect the views expressed by electors over recent years, so that the policies residents have voted for could be put into practice.

Cllr Margaret Cooksey - Lib Dem leader on Mole Valley DC

Mole Valley DC Lib Dem Leader Cllr Margaret Cooksey

Liberal Democrat Leader, Margaret Cooksey, says: "Since the Liberal Democrats launched our policy programme for a 'Fairer, Greener, More Effective' Mole Valley, we have won 4 seats and become the largest party. The voters have expressed their support for our policies and we have had to work out how these could best be delivered.

"This could have been achieved in one of several ways. The most obvious would have been for the Ashtead Independents to stick to the position they adopted last year and allow the largest party to take Leadership of the Council; in these conditions we offered to form a multi-party Executive including either or both of the other 2 groups; we would also have been prepared to form a minority administration. We also proposed other options where another party had the Leadership, but we had more seats on the Executive and an agreement on what policies would be adopted. Throughout the discussions, the other parties remained intransigent and demanded that we take a minority position on the Executive under Conservative leadership; they also failed to engage in any discussion about a Programme of policies.

"In the end, we decided that we could more effectively promote the policies that residents have supported by remaining in the role of constructive opposition; the alternative would have tied tying our hands by taking positions on an Executive without any assurance that our Programme would be adopted in whole or in part.

"We are disappointed that the opportunity to form a broader-based administration has been missed. However we can see that the formation of a Coalition has two benefits: it clarifies the Ashtead Independents' preference for a Conservative-led administration - electors in Ashtead now know exactly what they stand for; it also adds more experience to the Executive and recognises the difficulties the Conservatives would have had in forming a credible Executive on their own."