Lib Dems hold on to power

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THE Lib Dems have been confirmed in power in St Albans, despite losing their overall majority in this month's district council elections.

Group leader Robert Donald was re-appointed chairman of an all Lib Dem cabinet when Redbourn independent Tony Swendell abstained on the key vote in Wednesday's meeting of the new council.

He told opposition councillors who argued he did not have a mandate: "We know two seats were lost, but the share of the vote for the Lib Dems increased across the district.

"It is incumbent on us to carry on with the administration.

"We have kept down council tax below the rate of inflation for two years running.

"We are now, according to the Audit Commission, one of the top ten most improving councils in the country."

Independent John Newman blasted the cabinet for lack of progress on the city centre cinema project and the rebuilding of Westminster Lodge, pointing out the Conservatives had secured more votes at the election.

And Labour leader Roma Mills proposed an all-party cabinet which she argued would reflect the voters' wishes.

But with the abstention of Councillor Swendell, whose silence on key votes kept the Lib Dems in power between June 2004 and May 2006, the Lib Dem bid for power squeaked home by one.

Opposition parties have been given a voice through holding the chairs of the overview and scrutiny committees, but a bid to give them the vice-chairs as well was voted down.

This move, which Tory leader Teresa Heritage argued was essential to ensure democratic accountability, was supported by Councillor Swendell, but fell on new Mayor Kate Morris' casting vote.

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