Published: 06:00, 16 May 2019
Conservative MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey Gordon Henderson has said he is disappointed but not surprised his party failed to return a majority at Swale council.
The party’s collection of 32 seats was slashed in half as just 16 Tory councillors were elected to serve people in the borough at the polls on Thursday, May 2.
Despite the Conservatives having the most seats, they do not retain overall control of the council as they do not have a majority.
That has triggered the formation of a new coalition made up of Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Swale Independents and Greens.
The biggest casualty of the election was former Conservative leader, Andrew Bowles, who lost his Boughton and Courtenay seat to Green Party candidates after a 45.8% turnout - the second highest in the borough.
Reacting to the party losing its majority on the council, Mr Henderson, said: “I’m obviously disappointed but not surprised by the result.
“I feel very sorry for the Conservative councillors who lost their seats generally because of Brexit.
“Unfortunately, it had a big impact. Having said that, I congratulate all the candidates who did win, whatever party and wish them well.
“Having been a councillor myself I know how heavy a responsibility it is to deliver good services and I hope they’re able to do that.
“We have to make the best of what we’ve got.”
'What the people I spoke to mentioned was what I believe was a huge mistake in putting the major development between Bapchild and Kent Science Park in the manifesto' - Gordon Henderson
Despite admitting Brexit was an issue weighing on voters’ minds at the ballot box, Mr Henderson did not call for Prime Minister Theresa May to resign.
He said: “We don’t need the distraction of a leadership contest, it’s far more important to leave the EU.
“What the people I spoke to mentioned was what I believe was a huge mistake in putting the major development between Bapchild and Kent Science Park in the manifesto.
“My view is that Sittingbourne and Sheppey has taken more than its fair share and it’s time now for Faversham to take a far greater burden of the housing.
“There is no doubt that housing is of great concern to a lot of people and something that I think did lose us a lot of voters, particularly in southern Sittingbourne.”
He added that he hopes to continue to regularly meet Swale’s chief executive and the new leader, expected to be Labour’s Roger Truelove.
That announcement is set to be made at the annual council meeting at Swale House, Sittingbourne on Tuesday, May 21.