Norfolk County Council has 40 Conservative councillors. That is easily more than the Labour Party (15), Lib Dems (10) and Green Party (four) put together. So how can it be that there is a Labour/Lib Dem administration. The answer is with the 14 councillors from UKIP.
When those are added in the Conservatives can be outvoted and UKIP’s preference was for Labour and the Lib Dems rather than the Conservatives. It is not even clear what UKIP have got in return. All the Cabinet posts are for Labour or Lib Dem councillors – although there does seem to be some plan to switch to a committee system. Given the political split that sounds like a formula for still more uncertainty and weak decision making thus leaving real power with the bureaucrats. Although even on that score there has been some paralysis with dithering for six months on the appointment of a new Managing Director.
During a debate last September a Conservative motion backing a Council Tax freeze was pssed. Most UKIP councillors backed it but a couple abstained and one voted against.
Local politics in the county is dominated by the previous Conservative administration awarding a contract to Corby Wheelabrator for an incinerator in King’s Lynn. But terminating the contract would require an immediate payment of £20.3 million and perhaps as much as £90 million in total. However UKIP claim that shipping the waste to Holland would save money. The incinerator proposal would have saved the council money and reduced landfill but it was clearly unpopular.
So there are local issues which is fine. It is curious that UKIP are aligned with the Green Party over opposing the incinerator at any cost but then we also get some unusual alliances from time to time. What is striking is the failure of UKIP’s Norfolk councillors to make any impact on what might be regarded as UKIP’s issues. Anyone in Norfolk who voted for UKIP because they believed the Party was about reducing bureaucracy and political correctness or restoring grammar schools or providing lower Council Tax must be disappointed. It turns out to be a protest party rather than one of coherent principle.