Count admits he 'must carry personally' some blame for losses
- Credit: Harry Rutter
County council leader Steve Count says he “must carry personally on my shoulders” some of the blame for the Conservatives losing overall control.
Cllr Count said both he and his colleagues “were deeply upset” by the loss of seats.
“Although there is a myriad of reasons, some of which I must carry personally on my shoulders, the fact is the electorate did not return the Conservatives with enough seats to form an administration,” he said.
“As leader of the Conservative group at the county council, both me personally and the entire group were deeply upset by the fact that Cambridgeshire County Council would go back into no overall control.
“Whilst there are many factors, the main one is the pre-election decision that Labour would not field candidates in six marginal seats, where the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives were the main contenders.”
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He also admitted it was unlikely he would carry sufficient votes to remain leader of the council.
“As we prepare for opposition, I wonder if the public will be happy with their choices,” he said.
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He suggested Cambridge city voters “who having been convinced by Labour or Liberal Democrats that theirs is the superior party” might be unhappy with some of the outcomes.
He said voters may be surprised “to find out that their elected councillors have already got into bed with the opposition, before the election campaign started”
And he had tough words for a handful of independent councillors in St Neots and Huntingdon who, he said, had assured the public that they “think independently and cannot be told what to do”.
He accused them of “instantly selling their votes and independence at the first opportunity”.
Cllr Count added: “However, the electorate did still indicate that their faith in the Conservatives as a single group far outweighed that of any other.
“We hold 28 seats, 40 per cent more than the Liberal Democrat’s 20, almost three times Labour’s nine and then there are four independents.
“We have been in no overall control, three years of which I acted as leader.
“Although it can be slower and less decisive on occasion the committee system does lend itself to a more consensual form of less aggressive politics.
“Which is why when Conservatives regained control in 2017, we never sought to return to a cabinet system.”
Cllr Count said: “As leader of the largest group, I therefore reached out to the other groups, to suggest we try and work together under a shared system, as we did once before.
“However, I have met with no real engagement and a clear indication that the opposition feel that Labour, Liberal Democrats and the independents form a ruling group.”
He added: “The offer remains, collaboration rather than confrontation, and my phone remains on at my side.”
In a later revision to his statement, he added this about the four independents.
“Will the electorate believe they are truly independent when it appears the stark truth is a political pre-arranged pact?”
One of those independents, newly elected Stephen Ferguson, today tweet: “How to win friends and influence people”
He wrote: “It would be very difficult for me - having overturned a huge Conservative majority by just a handful of votes - to back Count’s leadership in the wake of #Farmgate.
“I was elected on a platform of Principles, Collaboration and Openness.”
RESULT FOR ST NEOTS EAST AND GRANSDEN
Conservative (755 votes / 38.32%)
Green (240 votes / 12.18%)
Stephen Ferguson - Elected
Independent (764 votes / 38.78%)
Labour (211 votes / 10.71%