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Sean Anstee: 'Hundreds' of activists key to Tory Trafford loss

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Trafford MBC’s former Conservative leader Sean Anstee has said campaigning by hundreds of activists from outside the area was an important “contributory factor” in his party losing overall control of the council - but said it is not “cut and dry” Labour will take control after becoming the largest group.

Labour became the largest party by one seat following last week’s elections after the party targeted the Conservatives’ only council in the North West.

Cllr Anstee told LGC Labour activists flooded into the area from other safe Labour council areas and were joined by Green activists as that party targeted Altrincham - its top priority ward in the region.

He said the Conservatives polled the same number of votes it had received in previous years, but a higher turnout in wards targeted by Labour meant this was not enough to secure power.

Cllr Anstee added: “In a way it is good for democracy that people are participating in elections but there were hundreds of activists not from [the area].

“I don’t think that is the sole reason for the result. I wouldn’t say there was a definitive reason but it would have certainly been a contributory factor.”

He said Trafford’s Conservative group would now have to decide on how to respond to a local political environment ”where there is significant activity from all parties”, but added it is too early to say which party would lead the council ahead of the annual meeting of full council on 23 May.

Cllr Anstee said: “It is not cut and dry. For us to form a coalition we would need both the Lib Dems and Greens but for Labour to do it they would just need one of the parties.

“There clearly is a requirement on all of us to speak to each other and take a view on what is the best way to govern for the people of Trafford. That is what we are concentrating on.”

He added the proposed partnership between the council and Salford City Football Club to create new leisure facilities on underused green belt land at Turn Moss in Stretford, which had been met with some local opposition, had been “a motivating factor for getting Labour activists into Trafford”.

But Cllr Anstee said there was a lot of common ground in the parties’ local manifestos, with housing remaining a priority as the area is one of the most unaffordable parts of the north west for local people.

Cllr Anstee also pointed to the Greater Manchester spatial framework which is due to be published in June, saying agreement among all 10 councils is “vital” to make the required progress.

On the Conservatives performance in the elections nationally, he said: “I think we can be very proud of some of the results that have been achieved.

“Eight years into Conservative government we are still the largest party in local government and winning seats in places we haven’t won before.”

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