The leader of Peterborough City Council believes voters have kept faith with his Conservative Party locally after narrowly holding onto power following last week’s local elections.
Cllr John Holdich is expected to be voted in for another year as council leader (his fifth) a week on Monday thanks to the support of the Werrington First independents, despite the Tories losing three seats and their majority last Thursday.
And he believes his party performed well in Peterborough in contrast to a chastening elections for the Tories nationally which saw them lose 1,300 councillors.
Speaking to the Peterborough Telegraph the morning after he was unanimously re-elected by local party members to carry on as Conservative leader, Cllr Holdich said: “People did protest by voting for different parties, but in the main they stuck with us and I would like to thank them.
“It’s always a difficult time and we’ve lost good councillors. I have to say we bucked the national trend.
“Different areas voted for different reasons – some areas were upset about (former MP) Fiona Onasanya, some areas were upset about Europe. It does not take much in
local election for a bit of a swing or protest to alter the situation.
“But we are the party to take Peterborough forward.”
Election night saw the Conservatives drop from 31 to 28 seats in the 60-seat council.
Labour, the biggest opposition group, gained three seats (two of which it had previously held before the sitting councillors resigned), while the Lib Dems gained two.
The Green Party doubled its number of councillors to two after taking a second seat in Orton Waterville, while UKIP lost its last remaining councillor.
Cllr Steve Lane, leader of the Werrington First group, said on Monday their three councillors are likely to support Cllr Holdich’s re-election as council leader at the annual council meeting on May 20, but added: “As a group we wish to remain independent and treat every (policy) decision on its merits.”
Cllr Lane ruled out joining an opposition coalition to oust the Tories from power for the first time in nearly two decades.
Assuming the vote on May 20 goes as planned, Cllr Holdich said policy priorities include fly-tipping, air quality and putting communities first, as well as progressing a bid to become the UK City of Culture.
He said: “We’ve been asked whether we would submit a bid and we had the guy from Hull council who did their bid see us. We do need all party support but we look forward to progressing that.
“It will probably be 2029 and we will need to raise money to do it.
“I want journalists to come to Peterborough because it’s an exciting city.”
Labour group leader Cllr Shaz Nawaz believed his party performed well at the local elections, but bemoaned the fact one more lost seat for the Conservatives could have ended their time in power, with the Tories crucially taking Bretton from Labour by 22 votes.
He said: “Overall we bucked the national trend for Labour, and if we or the Lib Dems had one more councillor that would have made it interesting. It’s positive that our message is getting through.
“In 12 months’ time we might have a very different scenario.”