Published: 12:19, 17 May 2019
| Updated: 12:19, 17 May 2019
Bob Bayford narrowly retained his position as leader of Thanet District Council in dramatic fashion after a tied vote.
The Conservative will now lead a minority government at the council after the new council chairman cast his deciding vote in favour of Cllr Bayford.
With the vote tied at 24 votes each for Cllr Bayford and new Labour leader Rick Everitt, new council chairman, Jason Savage, gave his support to his Tory colleague.
Cllr Bayford and Cllr Everitt were both nominated to lead the authority at last night's annual meeting - the first since the elections on May 2 when no party achieved overall control of the council.
The Tories hold the most number of councillors in the chamber with 25 while Labour take up the role as official opposition after securing 20 seats.
Cllr Bayford admitted forming an alliance is "something we should look at" but added it is "not high on my list of priorities".
He told the meeting: "Looking across at the Labour councillors it's like the old day - but note I don't say the good old days. It was very fractious.
"This chamber is now very interesting, there's representation from the Greens and there's an interesting mix of councillors and young councillors and that's very encouraging.
"It's no secret it's a difficult time for local government and Thanet faces challenges.
"We can meet those if we work together and I think we can achieve that. Thanet expects."
Cllr Bayford was nominated by Cllr Ash Ashbee while Cllr Everitt was nominated by Cllr Helen Whitehead, who was later announced as Labour's new deputy leader.
Labour councillor Peter Campbell described the new Labour leader as "an outstanding candidate" who members would be "foolish" not to elect.
Cllr Bayford announced Cllr Ashbee will be the new deputy leader with Cllrs Reece Pugh, David Saunders, Lesley Game appointed to the cabinet.
A three-party coalition between Labour, Greens and Thanet Independents was ruled out earlier this week.
Labour say they are in a strong position to form "an effective opposition" and the Greens revealed they would not offer "blanket support" to a single party and wanted to work on an "issue-by-issue basis".
Thanet Independent leader, Cllr Stuart Piper, has indicated his group would be interested in working with both sides as 'king-maker' saying there are some big decisions to make for Thanet.
Analysis - what does a minority government mean for Thanet?
The prospect of a coalition council is on hold for the time being at least after the neither the Conservatives or Labour reached an agreement with other parties to form a majority administration.
The Tories fell just four seats short of a majority in the council chamber - requiring 29 seats for a majority.
Their only potential ally was to join forces with Thanet Independents - a breakaway group of former Ukip members following a series of resignations and defections last year.
It means while the cabinet is formed of Conservatives, the group will need to work across the council chamber on an issue-by-issue basis to secure enough votes to pass proposals.
But this may prove to be more difficult to pass new policies, particularly given the contrasting politics between the Conservatives and Labour, with the Greens closer aligned to Labour.
Cllr Bayford will most likely be looking to tap into the right-leaning councillors from the former Ukippers in the Thanet Independents to secure enough votes in the chamber.
He will only need to gain four of their seven councillors' support for a majority and hope to garner some floating support from less hardline Labour councillors or Green members.
But his comments in the chamber on Thursday have not ruled out the possibility of exploring a coalition again in the future - so we will continue to watch this space.