Elections: Liberal Democrats take control of St Albans district council
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The Liberal Democrats have dealt a bloody nose to the Conservatives locally, bucking national trends to seize overall control of the district council.
Major gains were seen in Harpenden, traditionally Tory, where the Lib Dems took Harpenden East and Harpenden North, and Labour group leader Mal Pakenham lost his seat in Batchwood.
Across the district the Liberal Democrats picked up six seats, giving them a total of 30 councillors. The Conservatives lost one seat and are down to 23 councillors.
Labour now has two seats, having lost three, while the Greens held on to their one seat.
Council leader Cllr Chris White said: "We are delighted to have been given this opportunity to run St Albans City and District Council as a majority administration after two very difficult years since I first became leader.
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"The problems of Covid and local government finance have not gone away and we have clear priorities over the next 12 months: help the local economy recover from Covid, continue to repair the finances of the council, increase our efforts in fighting the climate emergency and making progress on drafting a local development plan to replace the one which was last refreshed in 1994.
"We will endeavour to represent not only people who voted for us and also those that did not - we are here for all the people in St Albans.
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"In terms of the campaign, I am delighted to see that Harpenden in particular now has a stronger voice with three Lib Dem councillors joining the group. It's clear that voters on the whole preferred positive campaigning and rejected the negativity and misrepresentations of the Conservatives.
"Hopefully they will learn from that and use their efforts to work with us on the council rather than constantly trying to frustrate our initiatives, regardless of their merits or the needs of the people of St Albans."
Cllr Mary Maynard, leader of the Conservative group, said: "Due to Covid, this election was unusual. Conservatives, with 24 district councillors had a net loss of one.
"Labour’s support collapsed, and the Liberal Democrats benefitted. The Conservatives lost seats in Harpenden, having decided not to canvass residents, given the high proportion of older people at risk from Covid.
"Other wards showed convincing Conservative wins. We put residents’ health above electoral advantage and would do it again.
"Liberal Democrats have run the council for two years. They blame others for their repeated failures such as going £30 million over budget on construction projects and the Charter Market fiasco.
"Their plans now include significant council staff cuts, charging twice for green waste, spending only £100K on climate change projects and reducing support for the vulnerable.
"Not liking accountability, they hide behind ‘cross party working’. There is none, the decisions and failures are all theirs. They have reduced scrutiny to prevent decisions being looked at, but Conservatives will continue to hold them to account on behalf of residents.
"Next year, every council seat will be up for re-election. Before then, the successful Conservative vaccination programme means we can engage with residents to get their views and work with them to develop a manifesto for change."
Labour spokesman and Marshalswick South candidate Iain Grant said: "“It’s clear the Labour vote was squeezed in the two-party fight over control of the district council. In many ways, it will be something of a liberation to see how the Lib Dems manage council business under their own control.
"Right now, they seem to be out to destroy the character of our traditional market, with nothing more than token consultation. We’ll be urging them to think again. It is simply not good enough to expect traders to transport and erect their own stalls, or to insist on flimsy gazebos to replace the more robust stands they have used. This is no way to treat loyal traders.
"When will they deliver affordable housing on sites such as the former King Offa in Sopwell, for instance (vacant and idle for four years at a time of continuing housing need; not to mention the loss of a community asset)? There can be no more buck-passing over the failure to deliver a Local Plan either – which the Inspectors’ report clearly indicates as a political and not a technical failure, in not securing agreements from neighbouring councils.
"Our representatives in London Colney, for instance, are very aware of how that failure exposes our district to speculative applications on Green Belt land.
"In or out of office, Labour councillors and activists will continue to campaign and to press for the things we believe in – decent homes and jobs, sustainability and a safe, healthy environment, with the facilities and infrastructure to match. And nationally, it is only Labour who will have the leverage to reverse the continuing Tory squeeze on local government finances.”
St Albans Greens said they were delighted to see the re-election of Cllr Simon Grover in St Peter’s ward, with a 60 per cent share of the vote. Elsewhere in the district the party’s candidates came second in two wards and third ahead of Labour in many others.
The local party’s improved performance reflected the nationwide Green surge at these elections, which saw record votes for the party in London, Wales, Scotland, and a net gain of 85 seats in councils across England. It was the second best local election result in the party’s history, bettered only in 2019.
Simon Grover said: “People in St Albans district clearly recognise the hard work we’ve been doing at the council and in the community, and it’s wonderful to see our votes increase across the board.
"1,000 people have joined the party since Election Day, and we are asking everyone who voted Green to consider joining us so we can have an even louder voice for environmental and social justice in the district.”
Conservatives gain London Colney: Sarah Tallon (CON) - 897 Dreda Gordon (LAB) - 837 Tony Lillico (LD) - 478 Mark Park-Crowne (Green) - 189
Conservatives hold Harpenden West: Lisa Scriven (CON) - 1293 Jeffrey Phillips (LD) - 863 Kyle Riley (Green) - 565 Rebecca Madole (LAB) - 233
Conservatives hold Harpenden South: David Heritage (CON) - 1325 Mark Beashel (CON) - 1317 Denise Bowser (LD) - 536 Maddie Liver (LD) - 459 Nina Vinther (Green) - 307 Linda Spiri (LAB) - 230 David Crew (LAB) - 229 Ian Troughton (Green) - 170
Lib Dems hold Verulam: Chris Davies (LD) - 1888 Alex Clark (CON) - 898 Candy Whittome (Green) - 173 Laurence Chester (LAB) - 134 Andrew Butchart (Reform UK) - 36
Lib Dems gain Harpenden East: Pip Liver (LD) - 1100 Paul De Kort (LD) - 993 Matt Stephens (CON) - 935 Paul Foster (CON) - 817 Eleanor Clarke (LAB) - 263 James Gill (LAB) - 228 Angela Troughton (Green) - 189 Dee Thomas (Green) - 184
Lib Dems gain Harpenden North: Allison Wren (LD) - 1124 Susan Griffiths (CON) - 1005 Tracy Morris (Green) - 195 Emily Tilly (LAB) - 149
Lib Dems hold Ashley: Mark Pedroz (LD) - 1673 Stephane Farenga (Green) - 372 Don Ratnasekera (CON) - 348 Jonathan Pearce (LAB) - 311 Ajantha Kangaha Arachchi (Workers Party of Great Britain) - 37
Lib Dems hold Marshalswick: North Raj Visram (LD) - 1230 Claudio Duran (CON) - 722 James Lomas (Green) - 207 Nick Pullinger (LAB) - 175
Conservatives hold St Stephen: Aaron Jacob (CON) - 1177 Alison Smith (LD) - 1120 Nick Bainbridge (Green) - 125 Janet Blackwell (LAB) - 102
Greens hold St Peters: Simon Grover (Green) - 1719 Georgie Calle (CON) - 650 Ed Bailey (LAB) - 509
Conservatives gain Park Street: Richard Curthoys (CON) - 946 Simon Mostyn (LD) - 807 David Yates (IND) - 660 Martin McGrath (LAB) - 167 Lucy Swift (Green) - 116
Conservatives gain Redbourn: Thomas Chapman (CON) - 1027 Brian Gunson (LD) - 683 Symon Vegro (LAB) - 290 David Brockway (Green) - 137
Lib Dems hold Cunningham: Geoff Harrison (LD) - 1220 Jordan Sweeny (CON) - 581 John Paton (LAB) - 227 Phil Fletcher (Green) - 146
Lib Dems hold Clarence: Chris White (LD) - 1643 Matt Fisher (Green) - 458 Ambrose Killen (CON) - 388 George Sanderson (LAB) - 172
Lib Dems gain Sopwell: Sarwar Shamser (LD) - 1492 Janet Smith (LAB) - 528 Susan Devi (CON) - 398 Lesley Baker (Green) - 165
Lib Dems gain Marshalswick South: Will Jankowski (LD) - 1607 Salih Gaygusuz (CON) - 899 Nadia Bishara (Green) - 269 Iain Grant (LAB) - 207
Lib Dems gain Batchwood: Sinead Howland (LD) - 1311 Ross Andrews (CON) - 506 Mal Pakenham (LAB) - 483 Anne McQuade (Green) - 188 David Thurston (Reform UK) - 35
Conservatives hold Wheathampstead: Gill Clark (CON) - 1264 Ben Batt (LD) - 692 Oliver Hitch (Green) - 216 Jonathan Hegerty (LAB) - 145