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Tories keep control of Tonbridge and Malling on the casting vote of the Mayor

The Conservatives have retained control of a borough council despite losing seats at the elections earlier this month.

Conservative Cllr Matt Boughton has kept his position as leader of Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, but only with the aid of the casting vote of the newly elected Mayor, Cllr James Lark (Con).

Cllr Matt Boughton continues as leader of the council
Cllr Matt Boughton continues as leader of the council

The elections coincided with ward boundary changes and a reduction in the number of councillors from 54 to 44.

The political composition of the council is now Conservatives 20, Liberal Democrats 11, Greens eight, Labour three and Independent Alliance two.

The two Independent Alliance councillors, Cllrs Mike Taylor and Wendy Palmer, voted with the Conservatives after Cllr Martin Coffin (Con) nominated Cllr Boughton to continue as leader. The other parties all voted against. That set the vote exactly even on 22 for and 22 against.

The Mayor then used his casting vote to confirm Cllr Boughton as leader for the next four years.

Cllr Boughton told the chamber that “It was not the most appetising political situation to be in,” but said he would lead the council based “on trust and goodwill and the understanding of all groups.”

Cllr Mike Taylor: Rewarded with cabinet post
Cllr Mike Taylor: Rewarded with cabinet post

He acknowleged that he was only leader again because of the support of the two Independent Alliance councillors, and when it came to announcing his cabinet members, he rewarded them by appointing Cllr Mike Taylor to be his cabinet member for planning.

The other cabinet members will be the Tories Cllrs Martin Coffin, Robin Betts, Kim Tanner and Des Keers.

The oppostion parties had foreseen that the casting vote of the Mayor would be critical to the vote, and when the council earlier considered the appointment of the new Mayor they tried to block Cllr Lark from taking the office – even though he had acted as Deputy Mayor for the past year and so would normally be a shoo-in.

But in the vote, the opposition were faced with the same position: a tied vote of 22 for and 22 against, which this time went in favour of Cllr Lark being appointed on the strength of the casting vote of the out-going Mayor, Cllr Sue Bell, also Conservative.

Following the meeting, Cllr Boughton said: “While we were disappointed to lose our overall majority on the council, at the May elections residents made clear that they continue to trust the Conservatives, as we are the largest party by quite a margin.”

Pals together: Cllrs Mike Taylor and Matt Boughton
Pals together: Cllrs Mike Taylor and Matt Boughton

“Therefore it is right we sought to form an administration and I am delighted we have agreed a partnership with Independent Alliance (Kent). We have much in common and there is a level of trust and goodwill between both parties.

“This is a new era for Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council; one which will see co-operation and partnership between all parties at its heart. Our administration will continue to listen to everyone across the borough to do what is right for Tonbridge and Malling.”

Independent Alliance (Kent) Leader Mike Taylor said: Matt is responsible for the recent changes to the council that has allowed this new trust to flower.

“While we were very disappointed not to get all five of our candidates home, coincidence has put us in a strong position to address the fears of residents right across the borough as the Local Plan develops, and to ensure we get maximum benefit from new Government planning policies as they are implemented.”

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