Cllr Philip Jackson is Leader of the Conservative Group on North East Lincolnshire Council.
An unpopular, unlistening, and inefficient minority Labour administration was the backdrop for elections for a third of the seats on North East Lincolnshire Unitary Council on May 3. Local issues were certainly at the forefront of the electorate’s mind, more so than I’ve known in previous local elections. Labour tried to blame central government funding reductions for all the area’s woes but this was no longer washing with the voters. They had been witnessing, on a day to day basis, the inefficient delivery of local services coupled with the maximum allowable council tax increases year on year. Also, a very unpopular Labour proposal to replace a major roundabout with a traffic light controlled junction resonated across all wards as another example of Labour not listening.
We published an excellent manifesto focussing on bringing back common sense into local government, improving efficiency, delivering basic services more effectively and retaining the controversial roundabout. We also majored on bringing back pride and standards to the area; Labour was perceived to have overseen decline and decay over many years with a rapidly deteriorating street scene. There had also been controversial Labour candidate selections and deselections and a visit by Jeremy Corbyn which had backfired on the Party.
North East Lincolnshire Council also went into the election with a remaining rump of three UKIP councillors, four others having defected to us during the previous couple of years.
At the start of the campaign we were targeting just two Wards. But as it progressed and it became apparent that we could achieve more, we stepped up our campaigning in three other wards. On the day, we retained and won seats where we had not expected to be successful at the start of the campaign, largely at the expense of Labour, though UKIP were annihilated, too. Overall, we made a net gain of three seats to give us 18, whilst Labour gained one and now has 19. We also have the youngest councillor in the country who turned 18 just a few weeks before polling day!
So, North East Lincolnshire is still under no overall control, despite Labour predicting at the start of the campaign that they would achieve an overall majority. We also got the popular vote; totalling the votes cast on May 3, Labour got less than 12,000 whilst we received more than 18,000. However, the four Liberal Democrats, who hold the balance of power, have decided to align themselves with and support the Labour Group during the forthcoming municipal year. This will mean an all-Labour cabinet for a further year, and flies in the face of the clear wish for change that the electorate expressed on May 3rd. There has already been uproar in the local media and we will continue to campaign relentlessly against Labour and their Liberal Democrat allies (vote Liberal Democrat and get Labour!) with the clear aim of taking control of North East Lincolnshire Council in May 2019.