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LOCAL ELECTIONS: Wrangling set to ensue over who leads Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils

By Jason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter

With parties at both Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils failing to secure majorities in the elections, a fortnight of behind-closed-doors wrangling is set to ensue over who leads the authorities.

The Conservatives had previously held political control of both councils, but this time must seek coalitions if they are to retain power.

At Babergh, 15 of the 32 seats went to the Conservatives, meaning it is still the largest party and just two councillors short of a majority.

Endeavour House, Ipswich (9812858)
Endeavour House, Ipswich (9812858)

It is expected that John Ward, incumbent leader and head of the Conservative group there, will attempt to negotiate with several Independents to secure their support.

Chief among those conversations could be with Kathryn Grandon or Lee Parker – two Independents who had been Conservative under the previous administration, and who are both understood to have kept options open to working with whichever group.

Read more: Election results for Mid Suffolk and Babergh District Councils and Stowmarket Town Council

However, with eight Independents, four Greens, three Liberal Democrats and two Labour councillors, if they all united could put in a leadership bid as a rainbow coalition.

At Mid Suffolk, the Conservatives hold 16 seats – one shy of the 12 Greens and five Lib Dems, who are expected to unite. That means that the one Independent councillor Gerard Brewster could sway which way control of the council falls.

However, it has not been ruled out that all parties could work together as a rainbow coalition.

Conversations will now take place behind closed doors over the next two weeks for a workable solution, but could put an emphasis on councillor attendance in securing policies at crucial votes.

Any councillor can put themselves forward as a potential leader, as long as they have a proposer and seconder, but are unlikely to gain traction unless they can demonstrate a significant enough group to vote for them.

The leadership hopefuls are put forward at the annual meetings held this month – May 20 and 22 respectively for Mid Suffolk and Babergh.

Councillors will vote, with whichever candidate securing 50 per cent or more of the votes becoming leader.

If there are more than two candidates, the voting takes place in rounds until one candidate gets over 50 per cent of the vote.

It is not yet clear who will be put forward by the Conservatives at Mid Suffolk, as the failure of incumbent leader Nick Gowrley to retain his seat means the party needs to select a new group leader.

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