Tunbridge Wells goes to polls for closest election in 20 years

Co-founder of Pickering - Polly Taylor

Amid a backdrop of scandals for the Conservative party in Westminster, the local Tory group is wrestling to keep control at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, which could fall to a coalition of opposition parties.

The Town Hall has been Conservative run for the last 24 years, but the controlling group has only 21 councillors at the Town Hall – four short of a majority – and has been running the Council as a minority.

In order to stay in charge at the No Overall Control authority, the Conservatives need to retain Leader Tom Dawlings, who is defending his Benenden & Cranbrook seat, and keep at least 16 seats to stave off any leadership challenge in a future vote of no confidence.

The opposition groups can currently muster 26 members between them – 12 Lib Dems, 6 Alliance, 5 Labour and there are 3 independents. There is also a vacant seat.

Only Labour is running a full slate of candidates against the Conservatives this year, with the Lib Dems targeting a handful of wards amid speculation in Westminster of an electoral pact among the two national parties.

Despite this, the Lib Dems in Tunbridge Wells are hoping to put Cllr Ben Chapelard in the Council leader chair, but the party won’t be able to run the the authority alone.

Opposition members have vowed to set up a ‘coalition of equals’ to form a majority administration, although nobody has yet outlined how this will work or whether three or even four different parties will be able to work together effectively.

The Conservative party goes into this election following a raft of national scandals that has seen them plummet in the polls.

Former Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, David Jukes, has even predicted a ‘bloodbath’ for his former party tomorrow.

If Tunbridge Wells – considered a Tory stronghold by the national party – does fall tomorrow, then the shock waves may very well be felt as far away as Downing Street.

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