THE state of limbo at Worcester City Council could drag on past this weekend – with the man at the heart of the negotiations admitting he cannot make up his mind.
Councillor Neil Laurenson has also revealed how Worcester Green Party has mixed views about which way to go, making his decision all the more difficult.
Your Worcester News can today reveal more developments in the saga, including:
- The city’s Labour leadership, which has been under pressure from some Green activists to do an unprecedented deal with the Tories, has told them it would be “impossible” because the party’s national HQ would not allow it
- Cllr Liz Smith, the city’s lone Lib Dem, went 48 hours without speaking to anyone about the negotiations this week and says she is happy for Cllr Laurenson to ultimately decide the council’s fate, with her own “preference” to back Labour
- The Tory group’s ‘wish list’ and response has been circulated among Green party members so they can rifle through it
Cllr Laurenson, the city’s only Green, says he was still open-minded about which way to go, but is determined to not let it drag on until Tuesday’s crunch full council meeting to vote in a new administration.
“Last year, I got told off for not giving the Conservatives a proper hearing,” he said. “So now I’m doing that and we’ve had talks within the Green Party about what to do.
“I have actually got back a wide range of Green views and for me, it’s about finding common ground.
“It’s annoying people think I’m on a ‘power grab’ because I wouldn’t be in this position if those two (Labour and the Tories) got together.
"But as that’s not going to happen, I don’t want to be here just to make up the numbers, because then what’s the point?”
He said Labour’s leadership, which has no appetite to deal with the Conservatives, had “a directive from London” not to work with the Tories anyway.
Cllr Smith, meanwhile, said: “Technically, my options are still open, but my preference is not to go with the Conservatives. But I haven’t spoken to anyone for 48 hours.”
More negotiations are planned this weekend, with all sides saying they aim to strike a deal before Tuesday to avoid last-minute chaos.
The Tories have 17 councillors compared to Labour’s 16, meaning they need the support of only one of the lone party politicians to wrestle back control.
The Labour group met on Thursday night and leader Cllr Adrian Gregson said negotiations were still ongoing.
WE WON’T BE ‘HELD TO RANSOM’, SAY TORIES
A FORMER deputy leader of Worcester City Council has fired the Green Party a warning - by insisting the Tories won't be "held to ransom".
Councillor Roger Knight, a veteran Conservative, says any deal they might strike "must be right for the city".
It comes as talks were today due to carry on over the city council's control, with the Tories one councillor short of taking over from Labour.
Cllr Knight, a former cabinet member for the environment, also says he has concerns over Cllr Neil Laurenson wanting to launch a pilot for food waste collections in the city.
He said: "I don't think we should be held to ransom by him and end up agreeing to things we don't want or need in Worcester, like food waste.
"We can't get into a situation where we could be agreeing things just to satisfy him, rather than what we believe is right for Worcester - it must be right for the city."
An investigation into launching food waste collections was launched last year by the Labour administration, but abandoned due to the launch costs being estimated at £1 million.
Cllr Laurenson's wish list of eight topics includes re-visiting the idea by setting up a free, voluntary pilot in a few selected Worcester streets to see if it proves popular.
Cllr Knight also said Councillor Simon Geraghty, Tory group leader, was keeping the Guildhall's 17-strong cohort of Conservatives regularly informed of developments.
FINANCE CHIEF CALLS FOR ‘HONOURABLE’ AGREEMENT
THE man controlling the purse strings at Worcester City Council has called for a "genuine deal" to be struck before Tuesday.
Councillor Richard Boorn, Labour's cabinet member for finance, told your Worcester News any agreement with the city's lone Green must not be "just lip service" for it to succeed.
Councillor Neil Laurenson's wish list has already led to a warning from Worcester's lone Lib Dem, Cllr Liz Smith, that the tight finances must be taken into account.
Cllr Boorn also insists Labour are "considerably closer" to Cllr Laurenson in their views on how to run the city council than the Tories are.
"From my point of view this has to be a genuine deal - whatever we agree must be deliverable, it can't be just lip service," he said.
"I believe we are considerably closer (to Cllr Laurenson) than they are in terms of how we'd run this city.
"What we need to do is come to an honourable agreement."
COUNCIL’S LEADER STILL CONFIDENT
THE leader of Worcester City Council yesterday said he “hoped” a deal can be finalised by Tuesday.
Councillor Adrian Gregson, who is facing a vote of no confidence, said talks over a Lab-Lib-Green agreement were still on.
“We are where we are - we haven’t agreed anything yet but we know decisions have got to be made by Tuesday,” he said.
When asked if he expected to finalise it before then, he said: “I hope so”.
Cllr Gregson, who took over as leader one year ago after a Labour coup, has spent the week embroiled in talks culminating in Thursday’s group meeting.
Your Worcester News can also reveal the Tories are having a group meeting today.