Conservatives lose control of Tunbridge Wells after two decades in power

The shock result saw the ruling party win nine seats out of the 19 being contested, shy of the ten they needed to maintain control.

They remain the largest party but TWBC is now under No Overall Control as they do not have a majority but hold exactly 50 per cent of the seats of the 48-seat chamber.

Gains for the Liberal Democrats, the Tunbridge Wells Alliance and Labour meant that while the Tories remain the largest party, they do not have a majority to form a Council.

They had entered the election holding 28 seats of the 48-seat chamber. Following the count on Saturday [May 8] they now hold 24.

The Liberal Democrats remain the second largest party and have 13 seats. Combined with the Alliance, Labour and an independent the opposition can now muster 24 votes between them – also not enough to get a majority in any vote.

As the largest party, the Conservatives will most likely stay in control as a minority party at TWBC, but they will need support from other councillors to win any votes.

The Conservative group in Tunbridge Wells also has its Annual General Meeting this month, where it is likely Leader Alan McDermott will face a leadership challenge.

The results come amid a backdrop of successes nationally for the Tory party that saw it gain control of Councils up and down England, while also taking the parliamentary seat of Hartlepool for the first time in more than 45 years.

The local party saw a number of upsets, with cabinet member Carol Mackonochie losing in Capel, the ward where the Council is proposing to build thousands of new homes in its local plan. She lost to Lib Dem Hugh Patterson.

They also lost Rusthall to Labour, where Joy Podbury, the Borough’s mayor, had stepped down.

The Lib Dems held the three seats they were defending and made gains in Capel, Broadwater, Pantiles & St Marks, and St James’.

Popular Tunbridge Wells restaurateur Matthew Sankey narrowly missed out being elected for the Tunbridge Wells Alliance in Speldhurst and Bidborough.

The two seats in that ward, where there was also a by-election, both went to the Conservatives.

The Alliance party did, however, take the Goudhurst & Lamberhurst seat from Conservative Barry Noakes. The Alliance candidate David Knight won by just 28 votes [641 to 613].

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