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Unchartered waters for new hung West Lancashire Council

Labour and Tories have 27 seats each with turn-out down

Cllr Adrian Owens

West Lancashire is on a knife-edge, after the local elections  left the Conservatives and Labour with 27 seats each.

The Tories took several blows after losing Knowsley ward to Labour’s Gareth Dowling and being beaten into third place in four seats by UKIP.

But, despite Labour’s win, they dropped significantly in their share of the overall votes, down over 14%, with UKIP snatching more than 12%.

It is uncertain times for the hung council as they meet with the managing directors this week to see what the next steps will be.

West Lancashire's vote share since 2008

Tory deputy leader of West Lancashire Borough Council,  Adrian Owens, said: “The council is on a knife-edge and we go on into uncharted waters now.

“We will still have overall control because our Mayor, Conservative councillor Iain Ashcroft, has the casting vote.”

Cllr Owens would not be drawn on possible candidates for the leader of the council after Ian Grant stepped down from the Aughton Park ward and only stated that an in-party vote would take place next week.

Cllr Owens added: “We will  continue to govern for the whole of West Lancashire but be mindful that we do not have  an overall majority, so we will  have well thought-out plans for West Lancashire and invite Labour to vote for them with us.”

Although Labour had also hoped to snatch Burscough East from the Tories and their decrease in vote share, their disappointment at that setback was waved aside as they looked to the 2015 general election.

Labour group leader Roger Bell said: “The Labour Party is pleased with the result.

“Our fabulous victory in Knowsley ward will bring a young and dynamic councillor, Gareth Dowling, into the council. We were disappointed not to win Burscough East ward.

“Now we face an uncertain time. This week meetings have been arranged between the senior managers at the council and the leaders of both parties to ensure that the will of the people is reflected on how the council is run for the next 12 months.

“The Labour Party is committed to making the council work for all the people of West Lancashire.”

Both main parties felt that they saw UKIP as a protest vote in an election race that they have both dominated for years.

Cllr Owens said: “UKIP was strong this year but they also took a lot of votes from Labour. I think a lot of people have voted UKIP in the European elections and carried that on in the locals.”

MP Rosie Cooper said: “I am not dismissive of UKIP, but every year we have a protest vote; it has been the Liberal Democrats in previous years.”

Chairman of the local UKIP party, Tony Green, stood in the Augthon Park ward and came second  behind the Conservatives. He said: “It has been a tremendous night for UKIP and everyone I have spoken to when  canvassing have been positive.”

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