STOCKPORT ELECTIONS: Lib Dems now biggest group on council
The Liberal Democrats are now the largest group on Stockport council after a dramatic night that also saw the borough elect its first Green Party councillor.
The result puts Lib Dems on 26 seats – one ahead of Labour – while the Tories are the third largest group with nine councillors.
However, the town hall remains in no overall control as no party has an overall majority on the 63-seat council.
And while the Lib Dems will claim the right to take the reins of the council for the first time since 2016, there may be some twists and turns yet.
If Labour can do a deal with the Tories – either to form a coalition, or a more informal agreement- they could yet make a case for continuing in administration.
However, Lib Dem leader Mark Hunter has been clear that his group should have the opportunity to run the council over the next 12 months.
He said: “We are now the largest party – it’s usual for the largest party to have the chance to form the administration and that’s what we will be looking to happen.
“There will be discussions, not least with my own colleagues, over the next 24 hours over how we got about it.
“Very clearly there has been a vote for change and we hope to bring new leadership to Stockport.”
Coun Hunter claimed there had been ‘five years of stagnation’ under Labour
“We are after all, the second biggest borough in Greater Manchester and it’s about time we started to punch our weight,” he said.
“We have ambitious plans for Stockport, for regeneration, protecting our green spaces and making sure we put local action to tackle the climate emergency at the heart of everything the council does.”
He added that he also wanted to improve ‘basic frontline services’, and address the perception that Stockport ‘has become quite scruffy’.
It wasn’t a night of total triumph for the Lib Dems, who lost Stepping Hill and Hazel Grove to Labour and the Tories respectively.
But they were able to offset those defeats with gains in Marple South and High Lane, as well as Offerton to keep their number of councillors at 26.
Labour, however, were dealt a huge blow by the shock of the night, which saw Green party candidate Gary Lawson oust Yvonne Guariento in Reddish South.
With Offerton also falling to the Lib Dems, it leaves them trailing the Lib Dems – albeit by just one seat.
Speaking after the result Labour chief Coun Elise Wilson – who also remains leader of the council until the annual council meeting – would not be drawn on her group’s next move.
She said: “In terms of what that means for Stockport council, that is still something that needs to be resolved. It’s not something I’m going to be able to confirm one way or the other.
“I think most people are going home to bed. It’s definitely going to take some time for everyone to think and sort things out.”
Coun Wilson, who became council leader in 2019, praised her group for their efforts, despite the disappointing result.
“I’m really proud of the work that local members and local candidates and Labour councillors put in throughout the election.
“This election has been tough for Labour and the way Stockport Labour has pulled together – and the work that has been put into it – is to be commended.”
Meanwhile after his surprise victory in Reddish South The Green Party’s Gary Lawson told of his delight.
“I’m very, very pleased,” he said. “I thought it was going to be close but, actually, in the end it was quite a significant win.
“I’m very, very pleased and honoured to be the first Green councillor on Stockport council and very grateful to the people of Reddish South for electing me as one of their councillors.”
He put his success down to a number of years of hard work in the area and taking the opportunity to get to know residents.
“The environment and the climate emergency is the most important thing facing civilisation,” he said.
“I’m pleased Stockport has declared a climate emergency and I shall be doing everything I can to make sure it is acted upon.”
Coun Lawson said he would also be focusing on cleaning up the area and improving the environment for residents.
The political make-up of Stockport council following the local election results is as follows:
Liberal Democrats – 26
Labour – 25
Independent Ratepayers – 3
Green – 1
Words: Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter
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