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Tories strike deal with Lib Dems over council control

By Rob George 09/05 Updated: 10/05 15:11

Buy photos » Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders Simon Geraghty and Liz Smith shake on their agreement. 1912031ncw www.buyphotos247.com

WORCESTER City Council will continue to be run by the Conservatives following the party’s deal with the Liberal Democrats, which was revealed on Wednesday (May 9).

Tory leader Coun Simon Geraghty and his Lib Dem counterpart Coun Liz Smith agreed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ for the Liberal Democrats to support the Conservatives by voting with them, should they agree, on council motions.

A full coalition to create a so-called Con-Dem council has not been agreed although the door has been left open for the Liberal Democrats to reconsider it.

If they enter into a coalition they will pick up a seat on the city council’s cabinet as part of the agreement.

Last week’s council elections saw the Tories lose their slender majority to leave none of the parties with overall control, with the Conservatives having 17 seats, Labour 15, the Lib Dems two and the Greens one.

The deal came after six days of negotiations involving all the parties and, as part of the agreement, the Conservatives could lose the chairmanship of both the planning and licensing committees.

Both parties will not oppose the election of Coun Roger Berry (Lab, Gorse Hill) as Mayor on Tuesday (May 15).

Coun Geraghty said: “This is vitally important, we supported Roger’s election as deputy mayor last year and even went round his house to ask him. Liz also proposed him as deputy mayor in the chamber and we were delighted he was unopposed.”

Among the key policy commitments being put forward are shared pledges to support the city’s economy, back social and affordable housing in Worcester and avoid cuts in voluntary, community, arts or sports grants in future budgets.

There is no pledge to freeze Council Tax in April 2013, but it could still be brought in as the agreement allows the Conservatives to advance any of the seven pledges they made during the election campaign.

Coun Smith told The Standard she was concerned how the agreement might be viewed by Liberal Democrat supporters but said: “The most important thing was to ensure a stable administration for the people of Worcester.

“My preferred option, and Simon knows this, would have been for an all-party administration but I don’t believe that was on the table having talked to all the group leaders.

“As we don’t have that option we have to look at the best way forward for the future of the city over the next one or two years,” she added.

The agreement is subject to the outcome of the full council meeting on Tuesday (May 15).

BELOW is the Memorandum of Understanding signed by both parties:

An agreement between Worcester Conservative Group & Worcester Liberal Democrat Group to work together in order to ensure a stable administration for the city council continues for the benefit of the citizens of Worcester

May 8, 2012

Key Policy Commitments

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will continue to put initiatives to support the economy at the heart of City Council policy.

· The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Groups agree to continue to fight to protect the Green Belt.

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats agree to emphasise the importance of social and affordable housing as part of their policies.

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats agree to allocate one-third of all future New Homes Bonus to support the provision of social and affordable housing in the City.

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will seek to ensure there will be no cuts in voluntary, community, arts or sports grants in future budgets.

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will seek to influence all relevant bodies to tackle congestion in the City Centre.

· Future receipts from former council house sales will be hypothecated to support the provision of social & affordable housing.

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will ensure that the Medium Term Financial Plan seeks to continue the level of council services over the lifetime of the plan.

Promoting Greater Involvement

· The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Groups agree to support a greater cross-party sharing of roles amongst non-cabinet members of the Council, including the chairmanships of the Planning/Licensing Committees.

· The Conservative and Liberal Democrat Groups agree not to oppose the appointment of the current Deputy Mayor as Mayor of Worcester for 2012/13.

· The Liberal Democrat Group will consider whether to enter a formal coalition with the Conservatives and, if they do, they will have the right to a representative on the Cabinet and the terms of such an agreement would be subject to a further agreement.

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will introduce Portfolio Holder briefings between Cabinet members and opposition lead councillors to aid understanding and promote dialogue between the parties.

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will bring forward proposals to facilitate greater involvement of councillors in policy formulation. This will be done as part of the current constitutional review. This is likely to involve the formation of a Policy Forum, the details of which are to be determined in all party talks, as soon as practically possible.

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will support a further review of the Governance Arrangements to examine the opportunities in the Localism Act to make it possible to involve more members in the decision making processes of the Council.

· The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats will identify ways for greater involvement of members in the governance of shared services.

Party Specific Matters

· The Liberal Democrats will be free to express their views and, for example, oppose the SWDP at future stages.

· Conservatives will be free to advocate and advance the seven pledges in their manifesto in any context.

· Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats agree to be open with each other concerning differences that results from these reservations. Advance warning will be given of any intention to act or argue contrary to a Cabinet recommendation or decision.

In the light of the above commitments the Liberal Democrat Group will support the continuation of the current administration and leadership.

Coun Simon Geraghty

Leader

Worcester Conservative Group

Coun Liz Smith

Leader

Worcester Liberal Democrat Group

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