Conservatives lose control of Council after twenty years of being in charge

Co-founder of Pickering - Polly Taylor

The Conservative party will no longer be running Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) after the group lost eight seats following the local elections last week.

On Thursday (May 5), 16 wards at the No Overall Control authority went to the polls. The Tories, who have been running the Council as a minority party since the local elections last year, were defending 10 seats and lost all but two of them.

The election came following a raft of scandals that have plagued the national party, including Boris Johnson’s fine for breaking lockdown rules, and inappropriate behaviour by MPs.

Nationally, the Conservatives lost nearly 500 seats and a number of key councils, including Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet, while Labour and the Lib Dems made gains across the UK.

The count at the Assembly Hall on Friday (May 6) ended up with the Liberal Democrats overtaking the Conservatives as the largest party at the Town Hall.

The Tories now have just 13 members at the 48-seat Town Hall, which means they can no longer defeat a vote of no confidence that would force Council leader Tom Dawlings from his position.

Cllr Dawlings told the Times after the count on Friday that he would now step down to allow opposition members to form a cabinet. It will be the first time since 1998 that the Conservatives have not been running the authority.

Councillors from the Lib Dems, Labour and Alliance are currently in discussions to build a coalition, but it is not clear what form this will take.

The Lib Dems made four gains and are now the largest of the parties at the Town Hall with 16 seats – but they are nine short of a majority.

To run the council, under leader Cllr Ben Chapelard, the party will need support of at least the Alliance party, which has nine seats.

But a ‘coalition of equals’ has been proposed by leader of the Labour group, Hugo Pound, although his party is only the fourth largest with just seven seats.

The Lib Dems and the Alliance may well go it alone as they have the numbers to form a majority together.

The Conservative group are set to remain in opposition until at least next May when a further 16 seats at TWBC go up for election before the 2024 boundary changes that that will see all councillors re-elected and their numbers cut to 39.

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