A week-and-a-half on from polling day and the Isle of Wight Council is still in a state of no overall control.
On a day of somewhat shocking events, the Conservatives lost their hold on power — epitomised by the leader of the Isle of Wight Council, Dave Stewart, losing his seat (by 240 votes) to his only rival, Green’s Claire Critchison.
With a total shake-up of the seats in County Hall, including 4 new political parties scoring wards, a rise of independent councillors, 5 lost Conservative seats and 1 Liberal Democrat, things are in interesting territory.
Right now, the council has no leader, no ruling party and seemingly no solution to the no overall control situation it finds itself in. With negotiations continuing behind the scenes, here are some of the scenarios…
Currently holding the most seats on the council (18), the Conservatives say it is a ‘reasonably well-established convention’ that they get the first opportunity to form an administration — and is something they have been trying to achieve.
Conservative party leader, Councillor Steve Hastings, even went so far as to write an open letter inviting councillors across the chamber to get in touch with him, by last Tuesday (11th May), if they had any ideas about a way forward.
To form an administration the group needs to persuade at least 2 councillors to come across and join them — either their party or some sort of coalition agreement.
With 21 opposition councillors, made out of party political groups and 13 independent councillors, a majority of 20 (on the dot) could be achieved in a number of different ways…
- The Conservatives (18) and the Green Party (2)
- The Conservatives (18) and the Island Independent Network (2)
- The Conservatives (18), Labour (1) and Liberal Democrats (1)
- The Conservatives (18), Labour (1) and Our Island (1)
- The Conservatives (18), Labour (1) and the Vectis Party (1)
- The Conservatives (18), Liberal Democrats (1) and Our Island (1)
- The Conservatives (18), Liberal Democrats (1) and the Vectis Party (1)
- The Conservatives (18), Our Island (1) and the Vectis Party (1)
- The Conservatives (18) and two independent councillors
- The Conservative (18), an independent (1) and Labour (1)
- The Conservative (18), an independent (1) and Liberal Democrats (1)
- The Conservative (18), an independent (1) and Our Island (1)
- The Conservative (18), an independent (1) and the Vectis Party (1)
However, is there anything the Conservatives can offer that would tempt opposition councillors to join them? Potentially, a cabinet position?
Over the last few years though, the Conservative party and councillors across the chamber have butted heads on issues such as the Floating Bridge, the budget, controversial planning applications.
Much like in Bournemouth, all the other councillors could form a unity alliance. If everyone but the Conservatives were to join forces, the parties could form a majority of 21. That would comprise 13 Independents, 2 Green, 2 Island Independent Network, 1 Labour, 1 Liberal Democrat, 1 Our Island and 1 Vectis Party member.
Even if 1 councillor decided not to join an alliance, the group would still hold the majority. However, if 2 people decided that was not what they wanted, the control would slip through the group’s fingers.
In Bournemouth, while the Unity Alliance did work for over a year, the administration eventually came to an end following votes of no confidence in the leader, tabled by the Conservative party, who then took control.
While on the Island, they have a good shot at forming a big group the question would then be, who would be leader and who would form the cabinet?
If no decision can be made or agreed upon among the parties, then the council could remain in a state of no overall control.
While this may be a good thing, with councillors able to vote on local issues and not needing to fall in line with a party view, it could also see a lot of struggles as votes are split and undecided, with multiple opposing views.
A no-overall control council could see the Conservatives rule with a minority administration as they have close to half of the council’s seats and are the larger party.
The council leader position, however, may be hard to secure for the Conservatives as they will need to gain the majority of votes at the next full council meeting.
With 21 non-Tory councillors, unless they secure the vote of 2 others, Cllr Hastings may lose the race for leader where an alternative could instead be installed.
The deadline for decisions to be made is drawing ever closer, with less than 2 weeks now until the first full council meeting on 26th May, where key roles for the council’s cabinet will be determined.
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