During a meeting of the full council on Friday (May 28), Peter Lamb and his Labour colleagues kept control of the council by forming a coalition with Independent Rory Fiveash - one of two councillors who quit the Party last year.
It was a frustrating night for the Conservatives.
Earlier this month, the Party won eight of the 14 seats which were up for election, giving them a total of 18 seats compared to Labour’s 17, with one Independent.
Duncan Crow (Con, Furnace Green) no doubt expected to be given a chance to lead the council but too many things stood in his way.
Mr Fiveash’s decision to side with his old colleagues was a major blow but the resignation of mayor Francis Guidera in March was what really scuppered the Tories.
Deputy mayor Shahzad Malik (Lab, Langley Green & Tushmore) was left holding the casting vote, despite efforts by Mr Crow to have that power suspended for the duration of the meeting.
After a lengthy discussion between officers and the two leaders - and an 18-18 vote - that call was set aside by Mr Malik, who felt that any suspension of powers should be used to ‘enhance the democratic process, not restrict it’.
He was then named mayor and went on to wield his casting vote in Labour’s favour for the rest of the evening.
Mr Crow later described the evening’s events as leaving ‘a very bad taste in the mouth’.
During the pandemic, the two parties worked together for the good of the town, putting politics aside in a show of unity unrivalled in the county.
That goodwill evaporated as the meeting went on, with accusations of entitlement being made by both sides while the hyperbole flew - ‘democracy is dead’ being perhaps the most dramatic.
Mr Fiveash will take over as deputy leader.
As part of the coalition deal, the council will now mothball rather than close the Millpond and Creasys Drive adventure playgrounds and seek new delivery models for the sites.
There will also be a 12-month extension to the government’s eviction ban in relation to council properties.
During the meeting, Mr Lamb announced his cabinet:
Rory Fiveash (Ind, Bewbush & North Broadfield) - cabinet member for resources
Peter Smith (Lab, Ifield) - planning and economic development
Gurinder Jhans (Lab, Northgate & West Green) - environmental services & sustainability
Ian Irvine (Lab, Broadfield) - housing
Michael Jones (Lab, Bewbush & North Broadfield) - public protection & community engagement
Chris Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green & North East Broadfield) - wellbeing.
Morgan Flack (Lab, Southgate) was named deputy mayor.