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Ukip's only council falls to Tories

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Ukip has lost control of the only council it has ever run after multiple defections.

Bob Bayford (Con) has become leader of a minority Conservative administration after the Ukip group split over the future of the former Manston airport site.

Ukip gained control of Thanet in May 2015 when its leader Chris Wells said his ambition was to run “the most boring district council” following a lengthy period of havoc which included the departure of the chief executive, former leader Clive Hart (Lab) quitting with a 6,000-word tirade against councillors on Facebook, a peer review that said the public viewing council meetings as “a form of entertainment” and a councillor claiming he was chased round Margate after an altercation over confidential council papers.

Since then the party has had periods of majority and minority control as by-elections and defections changed the council’s composition.

Its group fell apart once it proved impossible to attract any viable aviation use to Manston, and Cllr Wells instead backed plans to use part of the site for a mixed-use development - a course opposed by airport supporters.

The dispute meant that Thanet’s local plan approval was delayed, and the council faced intervention by communities secretary Sajid Javid.

It told Mr Javid in a January letter that this delay had been due to efforts to revive Manston and that these had now been abandoned.

Cllr Bayford is yet to name his cabinet. He is expected to be leader until elections due in May 2019.

Thanet’s current political composition is Conservative 21, Thanet Independent Councillors 14, Ukip 13, Labour six and Independents two.


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