A NEW era is on the horizon for Middlewich’s borough council following this month’s shock local elections.

The Labour group – which includes Middlewich’s three newly-elected councillors Jonathan Parry, Mike Hunter and Carol Bulman – has reached a deal with the Independent Group to run Cheshire East Council.

A decade of solid Conservative control came to an end earlier this month following a surprise election result which saw the group lose 19 councillors.

Now, the Independent Group – made up of 16 out of 19 independent councillors on CEC – looks set to work with Labour in a cabinet for 2019-20 before working towards scrapping the cabinet system next year.

But the Tories could still challenge the pact in a bid to elect Cllr Janet Clowes as council leader instead of Labour’s Cllr Sam Corcoran next Wednesday.

Cllr Parry said: “I’m pleased with the agreement.

Winsford Guardian:

“At the end of the day, the Tories have had their chance and there has been a lot of problems. In my opinion they have let Middlewich down for a long, long time.

“It has put us in a stronger position to try and get more done for the town, which is the main reason we stood for council in the first place. It is time now to get Middlewich on the agenda as much as possible. That is what people voted us in for.

“CEC needs a different direction. I don’t think there are many people that will say they were happy with how the borough was being run over the past few years – it has been a laughing stock, and that needs to change.”

The deal would see CEC work towards replacing the cabinet with the committee system from 2020-21, which would give councillors from all political groups representation on decision-making boards – in line with the Change Cheshire East campaign which the Independent Group launched last year.

Middlewich First councillors had been members of the Independent Group while they represented the town on CEC.

Cllr Corcoran told the Guardian he is ‘relishing the challenge’ that potentially lies ahead.

He said: “We have got a clear manifesto but we are not in control of CEC completely. We will have to work across party lines and convince others to vote in line with the manifesto.

“The budget is a key part of the council calendar and I would not recommend ripping it up part way through the year – CEC’s officers would be having kittens if we were going to do that.

“There may be some ideas that we wish to change, but we would need to get the approval of other members of the council, and we would have to go through the proper process.”

Meanwhile, the Conservative group would oversee scrutiny at the council if the deal is confirmed at next Wednesday’s annual meeting of CEC.

Cllr Craig Browne, Alderley Edge member and leader of the Independent Group, had been in negotiations with both Labour and the Conservatives over a deal for 2019-20 and a commitment towards establishing a committee system.

Winsford Guardian:

Announcing the deal, he said: “There are aspects of working with both major parties which give us cause for concern and we have not taken this decision lightly.

“However, this 12-month agreement is necessary to bring about the vital changes needed to ensure CEC operates in an open and transparent manner for the years to come.

“The transition agreement means we can deliver this change within 12 months. We have asked the Conservatives to act as watchdog over our daily management of the council, but they will not be able to block key reforms.

“We think this is the most sensible way to ensure we deliver key services and the vital changes our voters asked us to introduce.”

CEC now has 25 Labour members and 16 in the Independent Group.

Cllr Clowes could yet match those 41 votes in an attempt to become leader, with 34 Conservatives, four Liberal Democrats and three separate independent councillors.

Winsford Guardian:

She told the Guardian: “The negotiations between Labour, the Independent Group and the Conservatives were very open. In actual fact, both Labour and the Conservatives agreed to the same deal. It was very much up to the Independent Group which way they wanted to go.”

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A decision on whether to challenge Cllr Corcoran is set to be made at a Conservative group meeting next Tuesday, the Guardian understands.

Opposition groups have previously challenged the Conservatives for the role, with Labour’s ex-Cllr Damian Bailey challenging Cllr Rachel Bailey in 2016.