Opposition sign historic power sharing agreement to seize control of county council

Rainbow alliance shire hall

'The council will pay the Real Living Wage for all its employees and work towards achieving Real Living Wage Foundation accreditation including all contractors, with monitoring to ensure continuous progress towards meeting it' Early pledge signed today by opposition groups as they take control of Cambridgeshire County Council - Credit: Harry Rutter

In a matter of days all three opposition groups reached agreement to seize control of Cambridgeshire County Council.  

Negotiations spearheaded by the Liberal Democrat and Labour Party leaders – and a representative from the four independents – hammered out the 2,300-word deal.  

A fourth key player in negotiations was former Labour MEP Richard Howitt, is also now a county councillor for Petersfield, Cambridge.  

In a socially distanced – and historic – moment of political theatre, the three main political players signed a historic agreement on a table outside Shire Hall, Cambridge.  

Conservatives remain the largest party on the county council and their leader, Cllr Steve Count, had 48 hours earlier had clung wistfully to hopes of working together “under a shared system, as we did once before”. 

He called for “collaboration rather than confrontation, and my phone remains on at my side”. It never rung. 

For the opposition, today was pay back day.  

Most Read

“Liberal Democrat, Labour, and Independent Groups on Cambridgeshire County Council have hammered out an agreement for a joint administration to run the council,” said a statement from the opposition groups.  

“The document includes a policy framework, protocols for working arrangements between the groups, and a new committee structure.” 

In short there will be few crumbs from the masters’ new table for the outgoing Conservatives.  

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “I am absolutely delighted that we have been able to come to such a comprehensive and ambitious agreement for our joint administration. 

“There are huge issues facing Cambridgeshire, and rebuilding after the Covid pandemic will not be easy. 

“But we are excited about the prospect of rebuilding a greener, fairer Cambridgeshire.” 

She said: “Tackling the climate emergency will be at the heart of our administration, and will be a key focus across all policy areas.   

“We will bring in a new spirit of partnership and collaboration between the county council and all its partners, in local government. 

“More widely and we will fight hard for a fairer share of national government spending for Cambridgeshire." 

 Cllr Elisa Meschini, leader of the Labour group, spoke of her excitement “about the opportunity we have to advance an agenda for change after decades of Conservative maladministration”.  

She promised close working with newly elected Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Mayor Dr Nik Johnson.  

The aim, she said, was “to deliver a greener, fairer economy, an end to transport poverty, better infrastructure and to support Covid recovery”. 

Cllr Meschini also spoke of “bringing the council closer to the heart of all our communities wherever they are.   

“We will give more power to local people in influencing the decisions that matter most to them”.  

Cllr Tom Sanderson, leader of the Independent group, said simply that his four members were “pleased” to be working with the new administration.  

“We have worked together to provide an excellent set of policies for the next few years that will make our local communities a better place for everyone.” 

His independent colleague, Cllr Stephen Ferguson, who won his St Neots seat by just nine votes from the Conservatives, phrased the outcome in a more colourful manner.  

On Twitter he wrote: “It would be very difficult for me - having overturned a huge Conservative majority by just a handful of votes - to back Count’s leadership in the wake of #Farmgate.   

“I was elected on a platform of Principles, Collaboration and Openness.” 

Cllr Count had accused them of “instantly selling their votes and independence at the first opportunity”. 

Further details of the proposals by the rainbow alliance to follow.