Peterborough First: Who are the group that four ex-Conservative councillors have joined?

The group is now a major force on the council – but says it has no current plans to join a coalition with other minority parties
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Four Peterborough councillors have resigned from the Conservative Party and instead joined Peterborough First.

The group, now consisting of eight councillors, is made up of independents who discuss council matters but don’t necessarily vote in the same way.

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Since the local elections on 4 May, Peterborough First’s numbers have grown from four to eight, making it the joint third-largest group alongside the Liberal Democrats.

Cllr Chris Harper is leader of Peterborough FirstCllr Chris Harper is leader of Peterborough First
Cllr Chris Harper is leader of Peterborough First

Conservative numbers are down to 26 after Cllrs Ray Bisby (Stanground South), Gavin Elsey (Wittering), Peter Hiller (Glinton and Castor) and Brian Rush (Stanground South) resigned. Cllr Mohammed Farooq, meanwhile, has been suspended from the group.

But what exactly is Peterborough First, now a major force on Peterborough City Council (PCC)?

Its leader, Cllr Chris Harper (Stanground South) says that the group, which grew out of the smaller Werrington First, was set up to “discuss the issues that affect Peterborough and either support or hold the administration to account”.

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It is largely made up of former Conservative councillors, including himself, though.

Some among the number may, as such, still support the national Conservative Party, Cllr Harper said, but Peterborough First doesn’t have any political affiliations.

But could, say, an ex-Labour councillor or an ex-Green join?

The decision, Cllr Harper says, is up to the group as a whole: a vote would be taken and the majority would win; there’s no casting vote.

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Ex-Labour members have considered joining in the past, he added, such as Ansar Ali who ultimately stood as an Independent at the last election and lost his seat.

Cllr Harper’s position on the possibility of Peterborough First forming a coalition with other parties is similar: it’s up to the group.

“That’s the whole point of Peterborough First, we’re all our own bosses,” he said. “And although I’m leader, I class it more as a spokesperson than a leader.”

'No coalition plans - but things change'

So how about a coalition, now that opposition parties collectively outnumber Conservatives in terms of seats?

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“There’s no plans to go into a coalition with anybody; however, things change,” Cllr Harper said.

“We’re working with everybody. It’s fairly dynamic at the moment. I’ve met with the other leaders and there’s no call to join us or do something like that.

“We can’t anyway because there's eight of us and one might and seven might not. And it's up to them.”

Currently, no individual party has a majority on PCC, but the Conservatives still have the most seats despite recent resignations.

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Without the formation of a coalition, which would have to include Peterborough First, it’s likely to retain control.

Peterborough First is made up of Cllrs Harper, Bisby, Elsey, Hiller, and Rush as well as John Fox (Werrington), Judy Fox (Werrington) and Stephen Lane (Werrington).