Cross-party alliance set to wrest control of Lewes District Council from Tories

Green Party's Zoe Nicholson
Green Party's Zoe Nicholson

A cross-party alliance is to make a bid to take control of Conservative-led Lewes District Council next month.

In a statement released today (Wednesday, June 19), opposition councillors from the Green Party, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent groups confirmed they will be joining forces in an effort to take over leadership at a full council meeting on Monday July 15.

Lib Dem group leader James MacCleary

Lib Dem group leader James MacCleary

According to the cross-party statement, Green Party leader Zoe Nicholson is to be nominated as council leader, while Liberal Democrat group leader James MacCleary will serve as her deputy.

Labour and Independent councillors would also have cabinet positions, the statement says.

Cllr Nicholson said: “British politics is changing. We are seeing a realignment beyond the traditional two party system.

“I hope that this sort of co-operative arrangement will become more typical as it represents a true diversity of viewpoints and opinions. It also represents the will of voters in Lewes District as the participating councillors represent a majority on the council.

“I am excited about what we can achieve on behalf of local residents and can’t wait to get started.”

The bid follows an earlier unsuccessful attempt to form a cross-party alliance at the authority’s first full council meeting after the local elections in May, in which Liberal Democrats abstained from voting.

According to Cllr MacCleary, the decision to abstain was down to a desire to ensure detailed agreements were in place between all four groups.

Since then further discussions have taken place and agreements reached. These include a rotating leadership where the Liberal Democrats will lead the council in the second year of the administration.

Cllr MacCleary said: “We have been determined not to rush into this. It needs to be an enduring partnership that can achieve real change for local people and that means getting proper agreements in place.

“I am confident that we have got an agreement that will last and gives us a stable basis to work from.

“We put forward a forward-thinking manifesto for the district in the local elections and are looking forward to working with our partners to deliver that agenda.”  

Between them, the four groups in the alliance control 22 out of 41 council seats, with the remaining 19 held by the Conservatives.

The Green Party holds nine of these seats, while the Liberal Democrats hold eight.

The alliance also relies on the support of Labour’s three councillors and the council’s two Independents.

Labour group leader Chris Collier said: “I’m delighted that we’ve got an agreement. This is an exciting change for Lewes District that we know will better serve all our communities.

“As well as securing a strong agreement, we’ve agreed a shared policy platform that all partners are signed up to. We are convinced this is the best way to achieve positive change for everyone.”

Meanwhile independent group co-leader Ruth O’Keeffe said: “I have always felt that Councillors’ first priority should be working together for the people who elected them, and I am very hopeful that this alliance will do a lot of good for the residents of Lewes District.  

“There are many areas where we could do better as a council and this is a chance to achieve this.”

Her fellow co-leader Steve Saunders said: “I am looking forward to being part of this new group of like-minded councillors, that represent the vast majority of Lewes District residents and giving them a real voice in the running of our council”.