Wealden District Council: Lib Dem and Green Coalition

wealden

After the recent council elections, the Conservative Party lost their seat in Wealden District Council. The council has 45 councillors across 41 wards. However, as no party gained a majority, discussions began concerning a cross-party coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party for the next four years.

The election

The local elections earlier this month saw 13 Liberal Democrats elected alongside 11 Green Party members, 10 Independents, 9 Conservatives and for the first time ever in Wealden’s history, 2 Labour councillors. Previously, the Conservative Party had held a majority on the council almost every year since the first election in 1973.

Although no party had an overall majority, the Liberal Democrats’ win of 13 seats makes them the largest party on the council and with the Greens’ 11 councillors, discussions have taken place surrounding the forming of a Cabinet committee – consisting of four Liberal Democrat councillors and three Green Party councillors.

Coalition talks

Wealden District Council held its first meeting yesterday since the local elections where councillors confirmed the formation of a Green and Liberal Democrat coalition with the election of James Partridge (Lib Dem) as the council’s new leader.

In naming his cabinet, Cllr Partridge confirmed that the Green Party’s Rachel Millward would serve as deputy leader. The two are expected to swap roles each year.

The two parties are to share seven cabinet portfolios (including leader). They include: Ian Tysh (Green), planning and environment; Paul Coleshill (Lib Dem), climate change, economy and wellbeing; Greg Collins (Green), finance and human resources; Gareth Owen-Williams (Lib Dem), waste and customer services; and Kelvin Williams (Lib Dem), public health and asset management.

Cllr Millward will be portfolio holder for housing and benefits, in addition to her role as deputy leader.

The meeting also saw the elections of the Green Party’s Christina Coleman as the council’s chairman and Liberal Democrat Gavin Blake-Coggins as vice-chairman.

Plans for Wealden District Council

Both councillors said they have had “amicable, brisk and business like” discussions since the elections, which led to the alliance agreement.

Liberal Democrat group leader and new leader of the council James Partridge spoke with optimism and enthusiasm about the newly formed working alliance with the Greens. He said, “We are absolutely on the same page about all the important local issues and thus were able to quickly reach an agreement to form a combined team that will ensure competent and effective governance over the next four years.”

“Our focus is to bring about the changes for which the majority of the Wealden electorate voted. I am really looking forward to leading that team for the next year.”

Rachel Millward, Green Party group leader, said, “Residents made it clear at the ballot box that they are desperate for change. We are delighted to bring in a new era of collaborative local politics to better serve our residents, and better protect nature.

“Change takes time, and we won’t be able to achieve everything we’d like to due to central government restrictions. But we will be working hard together to improve Wealden for all.”

Final thought

The coalition between the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party in Wealden District Council appears hopeful, with a huge focus on much needed change. Obtaining the council is clearly an achievement for the two parties, especially after it had been under the control of the Conservative Party almost constantly for decades.

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