The leader-elect of the first Ukip-controlled council has told LGC they intend to run “the most boring district council”.
The party took majority control of Thanet DC in last week’s local elections, winning a 36% share of the vote.
It increased its presence on the council, previously a minority Labour administration, from two to 33 of the 56 available seats. The Conservatives won 18 seats and Labour four, with one Independent.
A new council leader will not be formally appointed until the annual council meeting on 21 May. However existing Ukip councillor Chris Wells is expected to assume the role.
The authority has experienced a number of leadership issues in recent years. Last month, it appointed a new chief executive, Madeline Homer, in the wake of the resignation of Sue McGonigal in December after some months of sickness leave. This followed her being exonerated after being investigated over an alleged conflict of interest in a planning matter.
Council leader Clive Hart (Lab) announced he was quitting on Facebook in May last year, citing exasperation with the conduct of councillors and the failure to secure the future of Manston airport, which closed in May 2014. A critical peer review report from the Local Government Association last year highlighted councillors’ misbehaviour for bringing Thanet into disrepute.
Cllr Wells, a former Tory councillor who defected to Ukip in October 2014, said: “My ambition is to run the most boring district council that the Local Government Chronicle doesn’t wish to report on over the next four years in the way they have over the last four years.”
He added that Ukip’s victory was the result of “a group of residents being particularly irate about the way they felt that their council had behaved in recent years who were desperate to see some sort of change”.
Ukip’s priorities will be to reopen the airport through a compulsory purchase order, improve street cleaning and litter, and review public comment on the local plan. The plan suggests 12,000 new homes are needed by 2031 against an increase of 5,000 jobs. Cllr Wells said Ukip would “work harder for more jobs… and perhaps work a little less enthusiastically for larger number of houses”.
While the new administration will begin with a leader and cabinet model, Cllr Well said the party would look at other options for governance during the four-year term. “Ukip is wedded to the idea of running committees as being more transparent and more open to public scrutiny rather than the cabinet system,” he said.
Outgoing council leader Iris Johnston (Lab) said she was “very disappointed” by the election result but that there had been “some very big issues to contend with”, notably the possible reopening of Marston Airport and consultation on the local plan. She said “substantial funding” was put towards Ukip leader Nigel Farage’s failed bid to be MP for Thanet South and that had a “knock-on effect” on the council elections.