ELECTIONS: Voters back the pact

IT was business as usual today after the Calderdale Council elections produced some close results – but little overall change.

Voters gave the Liberal Democrat-Labour alliance an extra seat and the Conservatives two more, mainly at the expense of independents.

It leaves the Conservatives with 21 seats (up two), the Liberal Democrats on 13 (down two) and Labour on 13 (up three).

There is still one independent Liberal Democrat councillor, one BNP councillor and two independents.

In the poll on alternative voting, 18,494 in Calderdale said yes, with 41,175 saying no.

This figure was more or less mirrored nationally.

The council voting result puts the alliance on course for a second term in office as Lib-Lab members prepare for the annual council meeting on May 23.

The council’s leader, Janet Battye (Lib-Dem) said she was disappointed but not too downhearted by the results.

“We will be getting together in the next day or two with our coalition partners to decide what changes are necessary but for the time being it is business as usual.”

Councillor Battye said the loss of cabinet colleague and children’s spokeswoman Olwen Jennings, in Todmorden, was a blow as was the ousting of hard working Liberal Democrat councillor Stephen Gow, in Skircoat.

The council’s deputy leader, Tim Swift retained his seat in Town ward with a slightly reduced majority of 724 - down from 802 in 2007.

He said the alliance with the Liberal Democrats had worked well for the past year and he was content for that to continue and provide stability.

His members were meeting today to elect officers and celebrate victories in Todmorden, Calder and Sowerby Bridge wards.

Conservative group leader Stephen Baines (Northowram and Shelf) was pleased about winning seats in Brighouse, Skircoat and Elland, and surprised about losing the Sowerby Bridge seat, which had been held by Andrew Feather since 1999.

“Labour and the Liberal Democrats have run the council together for 12 months and the Liberal Democrat vote collapsed, which shows what electors thought about that arrangement.

“They have collectively failed to make any key decisions during that time, apart from the budget, and that was forced on them by the Government.”

Councillor Baines said he hoped the Conservatives, as the largest group, would get a bigger say in running the council from now on.

Lord Shutt of Greetland, who watched the votes being counted at North Bridge Leisure Centre, said the Liberal Democrats had suffered locally from the criticism of their Party leader Nick Clegg.

“Regrettably, there was a tendancy for some people to vote Labour in this election and that let in the Conservatives,” he said.