Tories vow to 'work together' with opposition after losing majority in Lichfield
The Conservatives have vowed to "work together" with other parties on Lichfield District Council after Labour ruled out a pact with the Lib Dems.
This month's local elections saw the Tories lose their majority on the council for the first time in 24 years, after major gains from opposition parties.
However, the Conservatives will stay in control of a minority administration after Labour said a coalition with the Lib Dems would not be in the "best interests" of people in the district.
The elections ended with the Conservatives one short of a majority on 23 seats, while Labour has 17 and the Lib Dems seven.
Councillor Doug Pullen, who has confirmed he is staying on as leader, said while national issues surrounding his party had impacted the local elections, he was "optimistic" about the future.
He told the Star: "It would be very difficult to say I was pleased with the results but I think they clearly reflected a national picture. I was disappointed in the result but pleased we remain the largest group on the council and very much looking forward to how we can work best with the different parties in the council.
"I will always be positive about the situation we are in; confidence allows ability to work together. Am I pleased with the results? No. Am I optimistic we will be able to work together and continue making things happen in the district? Yes, absolutely.
"Clearly nationally the Conservative Party has a lot to do to win back voters trust and confidence. Here in Lichfield district, I think it's really about continuing to be good, local ward councillors on the patch and making sure residents are aware of what we are doing on their behalf. I think you do see some wards where some local councillors have done really well against the national tide.
"We remain the largest party, we just fell one seat short by those three votes at the end. I think what people haven't voted for is uncertainty or any situation where parties can't work together and things stop for four years.
"We're now in that position where clearly the Labour group and the Lib Dem group are much larger but clearly we are going to need to work more closely with our colleagues."
Newly elected Labour leader Councillor Sue Woodward, who has taken over from her husband Steve Norman, said forming an agreement with the Lib Dems would not create a "stable" local government.
She said: "I'm really excited about the opportunities ahead. Clearly within the Labour group, there's a huge strength and depth of skills and experience and I think we can really make the voices of our electors heard in a way that hasn't been the case in the past 24 years of Conservative domination.
"We want to work with the Lib Dems but we didn't want to form a formal agreement by which we take control with a majority of one. I don't think that would be the best idea for the people of the district.
"It doesn't make for a very stable local government going forward but it also means that each of the political groups maintain our own integrity, working together but not sort of tie ourselves to a political view. I've never thought opposition for oppositions sake is a good thing for the local residents.
"It's the case now that while the Conservatives are still the largest group, they don't have overall majority and so they have to listen to the other opinions being expressed and I think that's really positive.
"There are a big number of big ticket items still on the table that the Tories haven't been able to deliver on prior to the elections so there's things such as the leisure centre, the proposal for a new cinema in Lichfield but not just Lichfield city – I want to see a broadening of the perspective from Lichfield District Council so my area, Burntwood, gets the funding it's been crying out for for a number of years."
Councillor Paul Ray, Lib Dem group leader, said Labour's decision was "seriously disappointing" and should be viewed as an opportunity missed.
He said: "There was a dramatic shift in the number of councillors so they clearly did vote for change. What I just hope now is that the Conservatives realise that, and in running the council without a majority they will run it responsibly and working with the other parties including us.
"We are not in the business of propping up the Conservatives, but we will work with either party to make sure that the council operates and that the key policies and projects are taken forward and there is some change in Lichfield to make it a better place to live.
"We are seriously disappointed that we weren't able to have the constructive conversation with the Labour group to see whether we could get something to work, but I want to be open minded going forward and we do want to work collaboratively with either party to make the council work as best as it can – we do have a community to serve and we won't lose sight of that."
A meeting of the full council will be held on Tuesday.