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Bob Bayford re-elected as Conservative leader on Thanet District Council - but which party will be in control?

Bob Bayford has been re-elected as the leader of the Conservatives in Thanet following the district elections.

Tory councillors voted in met last night to approve Cllr Bayford's uncontested nomination to lead the group.

But it is still not clear which party will be in control at the Civic Centre ahead of the council's annual meeting next week.

Bob Bayford (7068115)
Bob Bayford (7068115)

Cllr Bayford says he hopes to form an administration but the leader will need help from other parties to achieve a Conservative-led majority.

The Tories won the most councillors at the ballot box taking 25 of the 56 seats up for grabs at Thanet District Council in the vote last Thursday.

The group met on Wednesday to agree to Cllr Bayford's nomination as leader, which was not challenged by any other candidates.

Cllr Bayford said: "I'm pleased to be re-elected and that they've got faith in me to carry on.

"We still don't know where we go as far as the council is concerned. Obviously, I'd like to form the administration.

"Talks are taking place in the next few days but it depends on what different groups want to do.

"The group will then decide what they want to do."

His first job as the leader will be to gain an overall majority, after the Tories fell just four seats short of the 29 required to form an administration.

cy elex 2019 (9396837)
cy elex 2019 (9396837)

A coalition with the Thanet Independent Councillors (TIC) group, which secured seven councillors across the district, would give the Tories enough councillors.

But they may face a fight to secure an alliance after it emerged this week a red-led three-party coalition could still happen.

Cllr Stuart Piper, the leader of the TIC group, says his group's role as 'king-makers' means they would not rule out joining with Labour, now the second biggest party in the district.

He said it would be "foolhardy" for them not to sit down with other groups to discuss forming a coalition.

But the splinter group, which formed after breaking from the previous Ukip group which won the 2015 council elections, would be an unusual partner for a Labour administration given their conflicting politics.

Cllr Piper said: "We have to have an open book. It would be foolhardy for us to say we're not sitting down with you [Labour].

"We need to sit down with both parties. There are some huge decisions that need to be made locally."

The Green team is celebrating after taking three seats at Thanet District Council (9610914)
The Green team is celebrating after taking three seats at Thanet District Council (9610914)

Labour took 20 seats so will need support from both the TIC and the Greens - who took three seats - to give them 30 seats and overall control.

But the Greens have hinted they might not be involved in any coalition discussions saying they are reluctant to offer "blanket support" to a specific party after a groundbreaking election result and securing their first ever seats in Thanet.

Tricia Hartley, the Green Party election agent, said: "Our inclination is to be highly collaborative with colleagues, but to retain our distinctive Green voice.

"This means that we would wish to work with other parties or groups, but on an issue by issue basis rather than offering blanket support to a particular group."

She added while the group's policies are "most closely aligned with Labour", the group hopes to work with councillors "from across the political spectrum" on issues relating to housing, social justice and industrial development at the Port of Ramsgate.

Labour councillor Karen Constantine (9610849)
Labour councillor Karen Constantine (9610849)

Labour's Cllr Karen Constantine echoed caution about forming a leading coalition saying the group, which meets tomorrow to select a leader, is focussing on providing "proper, full and untempered opposition".

But the Newington ward councillor did say it was a "possibility" that Labour could join a TIC and Green coalition but this would not be decided until after Friday's meeting.

A decision needs to be reached ahead of the annual meeting at the Civic Centre in Margate next Thursday (May 16).

A spokesman for TDC said a new leader will have to be appointed at the meeting who will then select a deputy leader and appoint a cabinet.

The various committees and membership including the chairmen and vice-chairmen will also be set at the meeting.

Read more: Thanet news and headlines here

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