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ANOMALIES, ODDITIES AND TOO MUCH POWER

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Although 5 May proved a good day for Labour and Liberal Democrats the elections threw up some oddities. ...
Although 5 May proved a good day for Labour and Liberal Democrats the elections threw up some oddities.

Labour lost control in three councils outside London - Kirklees MBC, Oldham MBC and Pendle DC - and Waltham Forest LBC in the capital. The Liberal Democrats' gain of Kingston LBC was matched by one loss, Tower Hamlets LBC.

In Haringey LBC the opposition was reduced to two Conservatives when the party lost 14 seats to Labour. Some Labour politicians were understood to be concerned such a large majority could lead to less effective government.

In Newham LBC six gains for Labour brought its seats to 59, leaving a single Liberal Democrat in opposition.

In Lewisham LBC, which had the largest swing to Labour in the capital in 1990, the party gained a further five seats from the Conservatives against expectations.

While Stephen Bullock, secretary of the Lewisham LBC Labour group and former leader, was delighted, he said he hoped the group would be alert to the potential dangers.

'There is a fundamental problem to do with the way local government works through the committee system. If you have no opposition there is no-one to make sure you justify your decisions.

'We have to find a way of making our decision-making process transparent. Otherwise you will have ten-minute committee meetings where decisions are banged through quickly. The answer may lie in less vigorous whipping or taking decisions in public. People are entitled to know how we reached decisions'.

Haringey LBC Leader Toby Harris said the much-strengthened Labour group would also have to explore ways of opening up its decision-making process.

Trend buckers

Wandworth LBC - Conservatives retain control with Labour gaining only three seats.

Westminster LBC - Conservatives retain control with no seats changing hands, leaving the make-up unchanged at 45 Conservative, 15 Labour.

The Liberal Democrats were hammered in Tower Hamlets LBC where Labour took 22 seats from it. The British National Party also lost its only local government seat to Labour. Labour has promised to reform the neighbourhood system put in place by the Liberal Democrats.

Kirklees MBC - a high-profile model Labour council slipped to no overall control. Labour lost six seats and Independents two while the Conservatives picked up three and the Liberal Democrats gained five. The composition is now Labour 35, Conservative 21, Liberal Democrat 15, Independent 1. The council was hung before 1990 although it has had a Labour leader since 1980. It had three years of Tory control in the 1970s.

Oldham MBC - Labour lost control after 14 years, losing three seats to Liberal Democrats who also picked up a seat from the Independents. The new council is Labour 29, Liberal Democrats 22, Conservatives 7, Independents 1.

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