Conservatives to discuss deal with UKIP to take back control of Norfolk County Council

Norfolk County Council's County Hall in Martineau Lane, Norwich.

Norfolk County Council's County Hall in Martineau Lane, Norwich. - Credit: Archant

Discussions have been taking place over whether the Conservatives and the UK Independence Party could join forces to strike a deal which could put the Tories back in control of Norfolk County Council.

UKIP approached the Conservative group last Friday over a 'common understanding' which would enable the Tories to take control of County Hall at next week's annual general meeting.

UKIP currently support the Labour/Liberal Democrat administration, but an email sent by Conservative deputy leader Ian Mackie reveals they could be prepared to switch sides.

In the email, Mr Mackie writes: 'Given where we have been, and where we could end up from now until 2017, this is a considerable turn-around, it will give us 60pc control with 45pc of the council,

'It will also ensure that we would have 63 votes in full council and represent 75pc of the votes cast in Norfolk.

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'This once only offer is from May 2014 until 2017.'

The Conservative group met behind closed doors last night, where leader Tom FitzPatrick updated members on UKIP's approach, although he stressed no decision had been taken. The group is due to meet again on Friday.

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He said: 'We will listen to UKIP or anyone else who approaches us with ideas.' But he added: 'Over the past year they have voted with Labour most of the time against us so it's difficult to see how a deal could be done, but we will listen them for the good of Norfolk.'

UKIP leader Toby Coke confirmed that his party had made an approach to the Conservatives and added: 'There's not much point me commenting on anything until we have had our group meeting on Friday.'

With the council set to switch to a committee system after next Tuesday's annual meeting, the email from Mr Mackie outlines who would occupy a number of posts, if a deal is agreed.

The leader of the council would be a Conservative, while the Tories would also have chairman positions on policy and resources, communities, adult services and the economic development committee. They would hold vice-chairman posts in children's services and adult services.

The email said UKIP leader Toby Coke would become chairman of the environment, development and transport committee, with Liberal Democrat James Joyce as chairman of children's services.

Mr Mackie wrote in the email: 'This would be a common understanding, not a formal Con/UKIP/Lib coalition.'

He also pointed to how much Conservative members stood to receive in special responsibility allowances based on the new set-up and said: 'Conservatives would have the status, office and profile to assist in the 2015 elections, ensuring we are the ones to deliver a zero council tax freeze in election year.'

The Conservatives lost control of Norfolk County Council in elections a year ago. The current political make-up of the authority is 40 Conservative members, 14 Labour, 13 UKIP, 10 Liberal Democrats, 4 Greens 2 Independent and 1 Non-Aligned.

George Nobbs, the Labour leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'This is entirely a matter for the Conservative party. My interests are, as ever, about what is best for the people of Norfolk.

'I would not conduct any negotiations via the media, no matter how distinguished the journalist or respected the publication.'

The Liberal Democrat leader Marie Strong was not available for comment.

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