THE new leader of Cheshire East Council’s independent group admits voters ‘would be very surprised’ if last week’s election does not bring about change.

Cllr Craig Browne, CEC member for Alderley Edge, has replaced Cllr Arthur Moran as leader of CEC’s independent group after it picked up eight new members and helped to push the council into no overall control.

CEC now has 34 Conservatives – 19 fewer than before last week’s election – as well as 25 Labour members, 19 independent councillors and four Liberal Democrats.

He said: “Going forwards, CEC is in a very interesting position that it has never been in before during its 10-year history.

Winsford Guardian:

“The first challenge for me is to negotiate that process of trying to make sure that CEC becomes an effective functioning council while it is under no overall control.

“Negotiations will be ongoing, which we will be heavily involved in, and we will see where those take us. We have had initial negotiations with each group but I can’t say more than that at the moment.”

The independents are now in a position of being kingmakers for CEC – as up to 19 votes could support either the Conservatives or Labour in the four years ahead.

Cllr Browne has begun discussions with the council’s other political groups about the best way forward – and hopes that will include changing the way the council is run from a cabinet to a committee system, following the independent group’s ‘Change Cheshire East’ campaign over the past year.

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“We have set out the change to a committee system as one of our red lines,” he said.

“If we were to find an agreement with the Conservatives we also wanted them to have a different leader – but that has now happened.

“It is not about personalities – the discussions have to be a bit more in-depth than that – but under Cllr Bailey the Conservatives had lost the election.

“I think a lot of people would be very surprised if they saw an agreement being reached which maintained the status quo.”

Cllr Moran chose to step down from his role as independent group leader on a high following last week’s elections – and Cllr Browne paid tribute to the former CEC mayor.

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He said: “It’s quite unusual to get somebody experienced like that who is willing to step down and let somebody else have a go – but that is the mark of the man.”

A decision on who the independents could work with is expected to be made over the next week.

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