Council control seized by Lib Dems

EMBITTERED Labour and Conservative councillors have voiced their grave concerns about the Liberal Democrats taking control of St Albans District Council.

The Lib Dems claimed five seats in the local elections bringing their total to 29, compared to the Labour's 11 and Tories' 17. But with one independent councillor Tony Swendell in Redbourn the council was still hung.

Despite failing to forge an alliance with Councillor Swendell and bitter opposition from rival party leaders, the Lib Dems managed to gain overall control at full council on Wednesday night.

Leader of the Conservatives Councillor John Newman argued that the cabinet was not proportional and asked the council to consider electing ten portfolio holders, consisting of five Lib Dems, three Conservatives and two Labour members.

Speaking at the meeting, he said: "As we arrive here tonight we have a proposition made by a party that has no mandate from the public. The Conservatives do believe in the first past the post, but the Lib Dems don't have a majority in this house.

"The public will pay the price for a ministry of meddle and muck. Nobody who sits here thinks this is fair or just. The amendment I make here tonight is a reflection of what the public recently expressed at the ballot box."

Labour councillor Mal Pakenham said although the Lib Dems claimed they were being fair, he failed to understand how this could include taking all the seats in the cabineto.

He said: "The Lib Dems only got 38 per cent of the vote but they want 100 per cent of the power that's not very liberal or democratic."

He claimed the last two administration run by the Lib Dems had ended in chaos.

He said: "Putting the Lib Dems in charge of this council would be like putting King Herod in charge of children's welfare,"

Leader of the Lib Dems Councillor Robert Donald said his party had won control of the council under the first past the post system and that they were willing to listen to any "sensible" proposals put forward by the other parties.

He said: "We are not taking 100 per cent of the power. There is a body called the overview and scrutiny committee which can call in and affect decision-making. It also has delaying tactics like the House of Lords."

The council held a recorded vote on the amendment 24 voted in favour, 29 voted against and one member abstained.

Councillors also voted on an amendment proposed by Councillor MacMillan to devolve some of the cabinet's responsibilities. The amendment was lost with 26 votes for, 29 against and one abstention.

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