Published: 16:04, 08 May 2021
| Updated: 13:40, 13 May 2021
The leader of Kent County Council says his top priority for the council will be to redouble its efforts to help the county recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Cllr Roger Gough said the issue would be a key focus for the newly-elected Conservative administration.
The party cruised to victory in yesterday's election, ending up with 61 seats - four less than it won last time out.
“We have to do everything to assist the county in the recovery from what has happened and we have a lot of plans, from work reconnecting with young people and dealing with the economic and social impact of Covid.”
He also pledged a “big emphasis” on environmental issues and working with the voluntary sector.
On the scale of the Conservative win, he acknowledged that it was better than he had anticipated.
“I was among the more cautious Conservatives on this; I think we all recognised that we would have to come down a bit from the high water mark of the 2017 election. But we have not come down very much. It is a very strong result.”
But the margin of victory was set against the loss of three significant cabinet members, which will force him too to reshuffle his top team.
The three were Mike Whiting, who was defeated in Swale West by Mike Baldock of Swale Independents; Richard Long, former cabinet member for education and Michael Payne former cabinet member responsible for highways.
Cllr Gough said that the party had benefited from the successful roll out of the vaccination programme - the so-called “vaccine bounce.”
“It would be dishonest of me to ignore the fact that national factors do play a part in this.
"Labour does have some difficulties at the moment. We were looking at challenges from other groups and clearly they have broken through but less so than might have been the case.”
“We stood on our record and our plans for the future and I hope people responded to that. National factors such as the weakness of Labour clearly played a part.”
He said the claims concerning the costs of the redecoration of of Downing Street had not been a factor until the tail end of the campaign but was not a major doorstep issue.
Despite its difficulties nationally, Labour became the official opposition at County Hall after securing seven seats. However they lost their leader Dara Farrell, with the Conservatives taking his Ashford ward.
Newly-elected Labour councillor, Jackie Meade, who won in Folkestone East, acknowledged the party had struggled to get its key messages across to voters.
Speaking on the Paul On Politics show on KMTV, she said: “We are not being clear enough about what we stand for.
"Obviously during lockdown it has been difficult because you don't want to be seen to be cutting down a party that is trying to save lives but as we come out of the pandemic we will be able to be much clearer about the positive impact we might have on our residents.”
Watch the the Paul On Politics show