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Jones considers LGA leadership bid

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Former Cheshire West & Chester Council leader Mike Jones (Con) has revealed to LGC that he is considering standing as chair of the Local Government Association.

Cllr Jones said he would decide by Friday if he was going to stand. Should he chose to do so and win the position, he said he would campaign for councils to have full fiscal autonomy and the ability to make decisions without central interference.

He spoke to LGC on Friday, eight days after the polls that saw his Conservative group lose control of the unitary council to Labour.

Despite the result in Cheshire West & Chester, the council elections saw the Conservatives win more than 500 seats and control of an extra 28 councils, leaving them narrowly as the biggest party in local government. As a result of this, a Tory councillor will be elected to replace Labour’s David Sparks as the LGA’s chair.

Cllr Jones said he had always stood up for local government and leading the LGA under a majority Tory central government would not affect that stance.

“It doesn’t matter which government is in power, it’s essential we have a very strong Conservative voice locally to work with in partnership with a Conservative government and do the right thing for local government,” he said.

“We have an incredibly important role to play, we deliver vital services for people and we need that support and respect from central government and the officials.”

Labour took control of the Cheshire West & Chester after winning just two more seats than the Conservatives.

Cllr Jones said the result was due to the fact the north-west was “an incredibly difficult place for Conservative councils and MPs”.

He said the Conservative government needed to invest more in the area to stimulate job growth, remove people from benefits and win support.

He added that community concerns about a potential local fracking site, which the Tories supported but Labour campaigned against, lost the party votes.

“It’s sad that to win an election people have to spread around mistruths and fears that play on people’s emotions,” he said.

The LGA will announce its chair on 25 June. Surrey CC leader and County Councils Network chair David Hodge is also tipped to stand for chairmanship. He declined to comment on the matter last week when contacted by LGC.

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