Parties look towards possible coalitions after Conservatives lose overall control of district councils in Babergh and Mid Suffolk
With parties at both Babergh and Mid Suffolk district councils failing to secure majorities in the elections, a fortnight of behind-closed-doors wrangling is set to ensue over who leads the authorities.
The Conservatives had previously held political control of both councils, but this time must seek coalitions if they are to retain power.
At Babergh, 15 of the 32 seats went to the Conservatives, meaning it is still the largest party and just two councillors short of a majority.
It is expected that John Ward, incumbent leader and head of the Conservative group, will attempt to negotiate with several Independents to secure their support.
Chief among those conversations could be with Kathryn Grandon or Lee Parker – two Independents who had been Conservative under the previous administration, and who are both understood to have kept options open to working with whichever group.
But the eight Independents, four Greens, three Liberal Democrats and two Labour councillors, if they united, could put in a leadership bid as a rainbow coalition.
At Mid Suffolk, the Conservatives hold 16 seats – one shy of the 12 Greens and five Lib Dems, who are expected to unite. That means that the one Independent councillor, Gerard Brewster, could sway which way control of the council falls.
However, it has not been ruled out that all parties could work together as a rainbow coalition.
Conversations will now take place behind closed doors over the next two weeks for a workable solution, but could put an emphasis on councillor attendance in securing policies at crucial votes.
Any councillor can put themselves forward as a potential leader, as long as they have a proposer and seconder, but are unlikely to gain traction unless they can demonstrate a significant enough support group.
The leadership hopefuls are put forward at the annual meetings this month – on May 20 and 22 for Mid Suffolk and Babergh, respectively.
Councillors will vote, with whichever candidate securing 50 per cent or more becoming leader.
If there are more than two candidates, the voting takes place in rounds until one candidate gets over 50 per cent of the vote.
More by this authorJason Noble, Local Democracy Reporter