Conservatives cling to power in dramatic Welwyn Hatfield Council elections

PUBLISHED: 07:24 04 May 2018 | UPDATED: 16:31 04 May 2018

The count in Campus West.

The count in Campus West.

Archant

Welwyn Hatfield's Conservatives have clung onto control of the borough council after a roller coaster election.

Welwyn Hatfield Council election 2018Welwyn Hatfield Council election 2018

For much of Thursday night the Tory’s 16-year stranglehold appeared to be in jeopardy – but a vital gain from Labour in Hatfield East by Peter Hebdon helped them see off a Lib Dem surge.

They also managed to hold Welwyn East, Cuffley and Northaw, Welwyn West, Brookmans Park and Little Heath, and Hatfield Villages.

The relief was etched over Tory faces as it meant they now hold a two-seat majority, down from the previous six.

Deputy leader Mandy Perkins told the WHT: “It’s always difficult eight years in to a Parliament, local government always suffers from that.

“I would just like to say that I’m really happy with the councillors we got elected in the council.

“They are diverse in ethnicity, age, and they are energetic, they want to get out and work for the people of Welwyn Hatfield.”

She also said that she was sad for Tory candidates that fell short, but added: “We have to be realistic that this is politics, it’s not life and death, and there are good candidates in all parties.”

The Lib Dems popped a bottle of champagne after taking Panshanger and Sherrards from the Conservatives, as well Peartree from Labour, while keeping control of Handside, Peartree, and Welham Green and Hatfield South.

An anxious wait during the count in Campus West.An anxious wait during the count in Campus West.

It leaves the group with its biggest ever representation on the council, a feat trumpeted by their leader Malcolm Cowan.

He told the WHT: “We gained seats from both Labour and the Conservatives, we now represent the majority of Welwyn Garden City – four out of seven [wards] – with our biggest group ever.

“The Tories are in retreat and have held on by their fingernails.”

He also took the opportunity to take a swipe at Labour – blaming them for allowing the Conservatives to maintain overall control.

The Lib Dems celebrating a successful evening.The Lib Dems celebrating a successful evening.

“Labour yet again dragged defeat from the jaws of potential victory,” Cllr Cowan said. “If they held their position the Tories would have lost their majority.”

Although Labour lost two seats – Hatfield East and Peartree – they won Haldens with Lucy Musk from the Tories, and kept control of Hollybush, Hatfield South West, Howlands, and Hatfield Central – eventually ending with one less councillor than before.

Explaining the mixed evening, leader Kieran Thorpe said: “I do not think there is a single reason, local politics is inherently local.

“Obviously we are disappointed but we are no stranger to such disappointments, and will certainly come back stronger next year because the message we got overwhelmingly from residents is that they want change.”

Welwyn Hatfield Council's Conservative deputy leader Mandy Perkins.Welwyn Hatfield Council's Conservative deputy leader Mandy Perkins.

He added: “What’s also clear is the scaremongering and negative politics of the Conservatives has totally backfired across Welwyn Hatfield.

“They have lost in many areas where they would have expected to do a lot better, and I think the way they have conducted themselves in this election will have longer-lasting effects than the result of this election.”

Cllr Thorpe said he felt the key reason that wasn’t reflected in Labour’s results was the low turnout – 34.8 per cent – an issue he feels has blighted local politics.

“Put simply, the people that desire change all year, not enough of them actually go out and vote and I remain sad about that as I have been for many years,” he added.

Labour leader Kieran Thorpe was re-elected.Labour leader Kieran Thorpe was re-elected.

As well as the Tory’s Hatfield East grab, another vital result was in Hatfield Villages – where both Samuel Kasumu and resources portfolio holder Duncan Bell held off the challenge of Labour’s Margaret Eames-Petersen.

At one stage Panshanger threatened to be a game-changer, as Tory Darren Bennett was pipped by the Lib Dem’s Ayesha Rohale, but comfortable holds in Northaw and Cuffley, and Welwyn East and Welwyn West helped prevent a disastrous night for the Conservatives.

Welwyn Hatfield Council is now made up of 25 Conservatives, 15 Labour and eight Lib Dems, compared to 27 Conservatives, 16 Labour and five Lib Dems beforehand.

For a full breakdown of the results of each ward click here: http://www.whtimes.co.uk/news/welwyn-hatfield-council-election-results-2018-1-5504101

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