Sunday, 1 June 2014

Tory/UKIP pact could seize power at Norfolk County Council

From BBCNews Norfolk by Andrew Sinclair:

Conservative councillors will be discussing the proposed alliance to take control of Norfolk County Council at a meeting later

Conservatives are considering an alliance with UKIP that could see them regain control of Norfolk County Council, the BBC has been told.

Tory group deputy leader Ian Mackie has sent an email to colleagues suggesting an "understanding" between the Conservatives, UKIP and the Lib Dems.

The plans would see Tory leader Tom FitzPatrick becoming council leader.

UKIP group leader Toby Coke confirmed he had approached the Conservatives over a possible alliance.

This is an idea that's been mused about for some time. The Tories are by far the largest party on the council and ideologically close to UKIP.

Bringing it about, though, is a different matter. Some UKIP councillors are concerned they will be seen as unprincipled: willing to get into bed with Labour last year but now happy to change sides. Among Conservatives there is no hurry to do a deal with the party that took so many seats from them.

Then there is the wider picture. In election week, how would it look if the Conservatives were seen forming an alliance, however loose, with their arch-rivals? One senior Tory said he thought the idea would be "laughed out of the meeting".

The talks will do nothing to help strained relations within the rainbow alliance at County Hall. It could be the final straw; the alliance could collapse and then, ironically, control of the council would pass... to the Tories.

The email said if the deal went through Mr Coke would become chairman of the economic development committee of the council.

Mr Mackie says in the email, seen by the BBC, that it would not be a "formal Con/UKIP/Lib coalition". He says: 
Given where we have been, and where we could end up from now until 2017, this is a considerable turn-around, it will give us 60% control... it will also ensure that we would have 63 votes in full council and represent 75% of the votes cast in Norfolk.

This once-only offer is from May 2014 until 2017.

Conservatives would have the status, office and profile to assist the 2015 elections, ensuring we are the ones to deliver a zero council tax freeze in election year.
He was unavailable for comment.

Conservative county councillors will be discussing the proposed alliance at a meeting later.

The Conservatives ran the council between until 2001 and 2013 when they lost overall control.

They are still the largest party but the council is run by a Labour/Lib Dem/UKIP alliance with the support of Greens and independents and led by Labour's George Nobbs.

Tom FitzPatrick succeeded Bill Borrett as Conservative group leader in May

Asked his reaction to the proposed deal, Mr Nobbs told the BBC: "This is a matter for the Conservative Party and others. My guiding motivation this week is what it has always been - doing what is in the best interests of the people of Norfolk.

"For my part, I will not conduct negotiations via the media, no matter how respected the journalist or how august the medium."

The current political make-up of the council is: 40 Conservative members, 14 Labour, 13 UKIP, 10 Liberal Democrats, four Greens, two independents and one non-aligned.

Earlier this year councillors chose to abandon a £500m King's Lynn waste incinerator, which had been championed by the previous Conservative administration, amid rising costs for the project and a failure to secure government backing.

UKIP had opposed the incinerator plans.

UKIP group leader in Norfolk Richard "Toby" Coke joined the party about four years ago

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