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TORIES AND LIB DEMS WELCOME GAINS ON THE LGA

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The Conservative Party has taken the chairmanship of the Local Government Association for the first time since its ...

The Conservative Party has taken the chairmanship of the Local Government Association for the first time since its formation in 1997. The convention is that the largest single party represented in local government holds the chair. Although the Conservatives have been the largest party in local government since last May, the voting system ensures a party cannot get the chairmanship without making significant headway into densely populated towns, cities and urban areas. The fact the Conservatives have taken this chairmanship reflects their success in these type of areas in the local elections.

Shadow secretary of state for local and devolved government affairs Caroline Spelman said:

'Taking control of the Local Government Association is a real prize for any political party and this reflects our excellent results in the local elections. To achieve this we had to make real gains up and down the country in cities and towns. This shows we have a solid base on which to win a general election.'

She added:

'I congratulate all our councillors up and down the country who are showing that with Conservative councils you can have lower taxes and better quality public services.'

The change will take effect at the LGA's July general assembly at the annual conference in Bournemouth.

Lib Dem representation at LGA reaches all time high

Chris Clarke, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at the Local Government Association, has welcomed the news that the Liberal Democrat group has its highest share of representation since the organisation was founded in 1997.

The association determines its share of the representation on the numbers of people represented by each party's councillors, rather than the actual number of seats each party holds.

'Dramatic advances by the Liberal Democrats in cities like Newcastle and Manchester have boosted the group's strength at the LGA', Mr Clarke said.

The changes mean that the Conservatives are now the largest party by just 0.9%. 'But of course, the organisation remains in no overall control', Mr Clarke added.

'We have put both the Conservative and Labour party groups on notice that Liberal Democrats will be the guardians of the cross party nature of the LGA. We will fight hard for the right of democratically elected politicians to take the decisions that can improve their communities - rather than leaving it to bureaucrats in Whitehall'.

The breakdown for 2004 - 2005 is as follows:

Tories: 35.8% (+1.4%)

Labour: 34.9% (-2.9%)

Lib Dems:21.8% (+1.1%)

Independent:7.5% (+0.5%)

Liberal Democrats now effectively hold the balance of power at the LGA, and neither the Conservatives or the Labour party will be able to push forward their agendas without Liberal Democrat support.

'Liberal Democrats are prepared to work constructively with groups at the LGA on issues where we share common ground, but other groups will have to positively engage with Liberal Democrat initiatives if they want to maintain ahealthy working relationship', said Mr Clarke.

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