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War of words over failed Norfolk County Council coalition deal

The battle for control of County Hall has caused acrimony.

The battle for control of County Hall has caused acrimony.

Archant

The leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Norfolk County Council has revealed it was the Conservatives who approached them to try to form a coalition.

And Dr Marie Strong has taken issue with the suggestion in the EDP by Tory leader Bill Borrett that, before talks collapsed, he agreed to Lib Dem ‘demands’ over which posts they would take in a coalition.

She said rather than her group making demands, it was the Conservatives who were offering her group the posts - and it was the differences in policy over issues such as the incinerator and RAF Coltishall which proved too divisive for a deal to be agreed.

Dr Strong said: “Despite a number of inaccuracies which are being reported, I had decided to let it be.

“But, while I do not want to embarrass any fellow members, I must also be consistent with my responsibility to my group. Therefore, following yesterday’s EDP report, I want to make this statement:

“The Conservative group approached the Liberal Democrat group - not the other way around - and offered us the posts indicated in the EDP.

“Our group confirmed it was our responsibility and duty to listen and discuss any number of possibilities with any of the groups which approached us, in the hope of resolving the situation with which we are faced, and this we did.

“Without getting into chapter and verse, our group refused to compromise on any items on our policy list or how they would be handled and, as a group, instructed me to cut short any further discussion as to a coalition.

“Our group is confident that many members of all groups know the time has come for us to put our hearts and minds into seeking a solution which will benefit the whole of Norfolk.”

The Tories lost control of the council after the May 2 elections and, at a council meeting on Monday, councillors voted against electing Mr Borrett, heading up a Conservative minority administration, as council leader.

Mr Borrett said of Dr Strong’s remarks: “I did approach the Liberal Democrats, because I was keen to find a solution for the council.”

But he claimed the Lib Dems had requested posts as part of a list drawn up at the start of negotiations, which was then batted back and forth before the talks collapsed.

However, Dr Strong insisted the initial list of posts was presented by Mr Borrett.

The council will meet again on May 24 where another attempt will be made to find a way forward. The current political make-up of the authority is: Conservatives 40, UKIP 15, Labour 14, Lib Dems 10, Greens four and one independent.

• See today’s EDP for full analysis of what it all means for County Hall and whether the stalemate is cause for concern.

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