Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - the day of change at Worcester City Council

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - the day of change at Worcester City Council

Councillor Adrian Gregson, city council leader with his Labour Party

Councillor Liz Smith shaking hands with Cllr Simon Geraghty in 2012: it didn't last

Councillor Simon Geraghty, Tory group leader

First published in News
Last updated
Worcester News: Tom Edwards by , Political Reporter

TUESDAY, May 14, 2013 - it's a day that will live long in the memory for anyone associated with Worcester City Council.

For 13 years the Conservative Party had ruled the city with an iron grip - but few outside even the most optimistic of opposition councillors could have predicted what was to come.

Labour teamed up with the Liberal Democrats and Green Party to sensationally dump the Tories from power, with Councillor Simon Geraghty booted out as leader and his entire cabinet dismissed.

Yet not a single vote had been cast. No elections had taken place last year - with the shock coup occurring at the annual full council meeting, an event normally seen as formality for the ruling party.

Events had caught up with the Conservatives, and how.

For some time, the Labour Party had been making slight inroads into Tory territory, and built up enough of a base to bring itself within two councillors of the Conservatives' tally of 17 once the 2012 elections had concluded.

That left the Tories bruised and battered, and the city council in a situation of no overall control.

But after talks with the Lib Dems, the Tories were able to form a pact two years ago to carry on as a minority administration.

At the time, the Conservatives offered the Lib Dem a seat in the decision-making cabinet, but it was never taken up - perhaps an indication that the relationship was never going to last.

By the time the winter of 2012 came around, with Government funding dwindling, the economy still struggling and huge pressures on the budget, the Tory leadership dropped a bombshell by announcing it wanted to commission out as many services as possible.

They also insisted that despite the pressures, council tax should remain frozen for as long as it was under their watch - a stance which made the Liberal Democrats more and more uncomfortable and led to glances across the chamber to Labour.

By the time last year came around things had changed. All the talk in Lib Dem circles in 2012 was about stability, but now they wanted out.

Too many cracks had started to show, and by the time the Lib Dems had started serious secret talks with Labour about switching sides in the spring of last year, the old Tory-Lib Dem pact was a poisonous carcass waiting to be put out of its misery.

With the city's lone Green Councillor Neil Laurenson on board, a Lab-Lib-Green block of 18 councillors took control, forming a new-look administration.

So these elections are the public's first chance to have their say on a cabinet which is Labour-led but contains one Lib Dem, group leader Cllr Liz Smith.

  

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