In recent years there has been a greater number of Con/Lib Dem joint administrations running Town Halls than of Lab/Lib Dem ones. I think the outcome has ben mixed but one point is that numbers don't seem to have been the crucial factor in the direction it has taken. Until last week we had three London boroughs – Camden, Southwark and Brent – run by Lib Dem/Con coalitions. In each the Conservatives were the minor partner in terms of Council seats but punched above their weight in terms of outcomes. For instance in Brent the Conservative councillor Bob Blackman was most effective in keeping a grip on the budget and thus the Council Tax much lower than might have been expected.

On the other hand Birmingham is a less happy example. Although the Conservatives, rather than the Lib Dems, are the majority partner it is hard to be enthused by the administration. There have been some achievements but staffing levels have been expanded and are only now being cut back as the spending proved unsustainable. There have also been failings on social work provision and attacks on school choice.

Of course we don't know what difference it would have made if we had an overall majority in Birmingham. But I think the lesson is to focus on substance – on policy, on outcomes. Not so much on the numbers of Ministers from each party.

7 comments for: Mixed omens from Con/Lib Dem Town Hall pacts

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