Future of council leadership in Milton Keynes to be decided in talks this week

Talks are being arranged between the political party groups in Milton Keynes to decide how the council will be run for the next year.

Monday, 10th May 2021, 3:23 pm
Updated Monday, 10th May 2021, 3:26 pm

The Conservatives leapfrogged Labour to become the largest group on the council at Saturday’s election count with 24 seats to the red party’s 19, the Lib Dems on 13 and one independent.

The Tories threw down the gauntlet to the Lib Dems over the weekend, with their leader, Cllr Alex Walker (Stantonbury) saying: “We have expressed to the Liberal Democrats we are serious and determined to take administration, to deliver on the change MK residents have called for.

“We hope discussions with them will begin early this week. I will be joined in these discussions by Cllr Alice Jenkins and Cllr David Hopkins.

Tories taking steps to get into power
Tories taking steps to get into power

“Our group reflects of our diverse and vibrant city. We are a compassionate, dedicated and experienced Conservative Group, ready to get MK back on track.”

The Lib Dems, who suffered the loss of on paper their safest seat, Newport Pagnell South, held their annual meeting on Sunday, after which a spokesperson said: “Nothing has been decided yet, and talks are being arranged for the week ahead with both parties.”

Together Labour and the Lib Dems have a majority of the seats on the council at 32 to 24. The independent, former Tory Terry Baines, has pledged his allegiance to his local “political family”.

Cllr Baines tweeted: “I may have a problem with the national Conservatives with regards to Northern Ireland veterans but wishing all of the MK Conservatives well in the local elections.

“You will always be my political family at Milton Keynes Council.”

But even with Cllr Baines onside, the Tories will still fall four short of the magic number of 29 seats needed to run the council on their own.

Various Lib Dem councillors spoken to by the Local Democracy Reporting Service on Saturday said that it was unlikely that the party would be able to find the common ground the two parties need to form a new partnership.

With Labour they say they have managed to achieve manifesto commitments they share.

Conservative sources say that because of the results on Saturday, they deserve a chance to run the council.

An agreement could come down to who both parties can agree to as the all powerful council leader.

The council is technically run by the leader who appoints a cabinet to take certain decisions.

If that turns out to be Alex Walker leading a minority administration, the Lib Dems would have to support it to see Cllr Pete Marland (Wolverton) ousted as council leader.

It could mean a vote of no confidence being tabled at the council’s annual meeting on Wednesday, May 19, where the Lib Dems would have to support the Conservatives taking control.

Labour big hitter Cllr Emily Darlington (Bletchley East) said at the weekend: “We are willing to work together with people willing to work with us.”