Shock for Tories as they lose overall control of council
- Credit: Harry Rutter
Celebrations for the leader Steve Count after retaining his own seat were short lived after Conservatives lost control of Cambridgeshire County Council.
Although the Conservatives kept all nine Fenland seats – as well as winning district and town council by elections – a different picture was emerging elsewhere.
In Ely, for instance, both Tory seats fell to the Lib Dems, and there was a similar pattern in South Cambridgeshire.
With all 61 results in, the Conservatives have 28 seats with Lib Dems in second place with 20 seats.
Labour has nine seats with independents taking up the remaining four.
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Until the election the Tories held 34 of the 61 seats but the balance of power has shifted and now gone to no party in overall control.
It will be a tense few days for all parties as they work out what happens next.
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And there will be puzzlement – and some disquiet – in Tory circles over whether they retain Steve Count as their leader.
He has been under pressure following the council’s refusal to publish a 480-page audit committee report into his former deputy Roger Hickford.
Mr Hickford quit two months ago and moved to Norfolk once the report was produced.
Legal advice given to the council prevented publication of the report that looked at a county council farms tenancy given to Mr Hickford prior to the 2017 election.
That report, so far unpublished, will be a priority aspiration for opposition groups who have consistently demanded its release into the public domain.
There will also be demands for greater transparency over the loans issued to the council’s property arm, This Land Ltd. It has received over £100m to establish and set up a new housing company.
Many opposition councillors have called for more information to be shared with elected members.
Cllr Count felt voter apathy played a part with only a 28.36 per cent turn out in his own division.
He believes a bigger push on encouraging more people to vote is needed.
“We have to engage on social media much more and it’s difficult for those who only engage just through social media for them to turn up at the polling station,” he said.
“I am sure Covid had an impact on voters, and to a certain extent, there was a good return for Tories throughout Fenland.”
One familiar face is back in politics in Cambridgeshire – former Labour MEP Richard Howitt. He won a Cambridge seat on the county council.