Local elections 2022: Tories scrape narrow majority on new North Yorkshire council as Lib Dems celebrate Harrogate gains

The Conservatives have narrowly maintained their control over local government in North Yorkshire as voters across England's largest county backed a spectrum of other political parties.

By securing 47 seats of the 90 on the new unitary authority, North Yorkshire Council, the Conservaties have just one more than the minimum number of councillors required for a majority, losing more than 20 per cent of their share of the vote to that at the last election for North Yorkshire County Council five years ago.

Although not directly comparable, in 2017 the Tories won 76 per cent of the seats, with the Independents getting 14 per cent, Labour six per cent and the Liberal Democrats just four per cent.

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The election for the unitary authority saw Independent candidates secure 13 seats, Labour and the Liberal Democrats 12 each and the Green Party will be represented at the top tier of local government in the county for the first time with some five seats.

Liberal Democrats celebrate their strong performance in Harrogate.

Deputy leader of the Conservative group Gareth Dadd said he felt the result reflected "a usual mid-term reaction" to a government.

He said: "I'm delighted that we have secured an overall majority, but above anything else we can move forward with certainty and deliver the savings and, hopefully, devolution, that the sub-region deserves."

The leader of the Independent group on the county council, Stuart Parsons, said he looked forward to working with all members of the new council, adding: "At least we are no longer in a one-party state."

Labour group leader Eric Broadbent said: "We're over the moon, we've trebled our number of councillors on the county. We're going to have a lot more influence and give our residents a lot more say in what's happening in their communities."

The count taking place in Selby

Bryn Griffiths, the Liberal Democrat group leader, said: "I think the electorate have seen the error of the Tories. It gives us a great opportunity to challenge them at the county council and get support for people who need support, such as those living off food banks and those on free school meals during the school holidays."

Kevin Foster, who has become one of the new Green councillors after winning Hipswell and Colburn by just eight votes, said: "It was the most uncomfortable day of my life! It gives us a greater chance to have our voice heard and we now have to be considered as we work to make a cleaner, greener, fairer place."

Among the high-profile figures to lose out in the poll were Jim Bailey, the long-standing chairman of the North York Moors National Park Authority, who secured just 32 fewer votes than Liberal Democrat Steven Mason.

At the count for Hambleton district, Mark Robson, the leader of Hambleton District Council, cut a bitterly disappointed figure after failing to overcome a challenge from Dave Whitfield, of the Green Party.

Another high-profile councillor, Helen Grant, the deputy leader of Richmondshire District Council, lost to Conservative Tom Jones.

Elsewhere, John Cattanach, a Selby district Conservative councillor of 23 years, who hit out at the Tory party's “flawed and manipulated” selection process after he failed in his bid to become the Tory candidate for Cawood and Escrick, scored almost double the votes as an independent than Tory candidate Georgina Ashton.

Similarly in Ryedale, well-known former Tory councillor Caroline Goodrick who was not selected as the Conservative candidate, won the Sheriff Hutton and Derwent division as an Independent.

Elected councillors will serve one year as county councillors for the existing North Yorkshire County Council and another four years as councillors for the new unitary authority.

Some 183,564 of the 478,539 electorate voted, representing a 38.4 per cent turn-out.

Lib Dems surge in Harrogate

In Harrogate, the Lib Dems won 10 of the 21 seats which will represent Harrogate on the new council, while the Tories took nine after having majority control of the former district council for more than a decade.

There was also success for Green Party’s Arnold Warneken who won the Ousebourne division, while Independent Andrew Williams was elected as councillor for Ripon Minister and Moorside.

Big upsets came as Conservative deputy leader Graham Swift lost the Coppice Valley and Duchy division to Liberal Democrat Peter Lacey.

Conservative Phil Ireland was also beaten by Lib Dem Matt Walker in the Knaresborough West division.

Another senior Conservative was defeated as Pateley Bridge and Nidderdale candidate Stanley Lumley came second to Lib Dem Andrew Murday.

In total, there were 10 Liberal Democrats elected, nine Conservatives, one Green and one Independent.

Coming into the vote, the Conservatives held 73 per cent of seats which represent the district on North Yorkshire County Council and Harrogate Borough Council, while the Lib Dems had 17 per cent.

For the new North Yorkshire Council, this figure has slipped/increased to 43 per cent for Tories, while the Lib Dems will have 48% of district seats.

The councillors elected today will serve one year on North Yorkshire County Council before transitioning to the new unitary authority when it launches on April 1, 2023.

This is the date when the county, district and borough councils – including Harrogate – will be abolished in what will mark the biggest changes to local government in North Yorkshire in almost 50 years.

What happened in Selby

Selby District Council’s veteran leader said the cost of living crisis and tax rises were to blame for the Conservative Party losing out to Labour and independent councillors in the North Yorkshire Council elections.

The Tories will send six councillors to the new unitary authority next year, with Labour securing five councillors. Independent councillors won three of the Selby divisions.

The results were announced at Selby Leisure Centre on Friday. The turnout across the district was 32.2 per cent.

Some major figures in the Selby Conservatives failed to win their divisions, including district councillor David Buckle, who lost in Selby East, and Richard Sweeting in Tadcaster.

Winning his Brayton and Barlow division, Coun Mark Crane, Selby’s council leader since 2003, said: “My reaction is one of disappointment that we didn’t win as many seats a I thought we would win.

“Clearly there is a feeling against the current government for a long time and I think that’s played out in two ways. Number one is a lot of Conservative voters have stayed at home and number two, some Conservative voters – a smaller number – have shifted to one of the other parties and in some cases independents.”

Coun Crane said he did not think the Downing Street party scandals were a major factor.

He added: “I think some of the other things that are going on in the country – the cost of living, heating bills going up so much, the increase in taxes which is something I was hoping our government wouldn’t do – these things have played into it, in my opinion, more than partygate when I was on the door.”

There were some stunning wins for independent councillors.

Coun John Cattanach defied his party and stood against the preferred Conservative candidate, Georgina Ashton, beating her by more than 400 votes in Cawood and Escrick. Coun Cattanach, who has been thrown out of the Conservative Party and stood as an independent, said he felt “vindicated”.

In Tadcaster, independent local campaigner Kirsty Poskitt beat veteran North Yorkshire independent, Don Mackay. Coun John McCartney, independent, romped home in Osgoldcross, winning by more than 700 votes.

Labour performed well in urban areas, winning in Sherburn in Elmet, Selby East and the quieter and more marginal Barlby and Riccall. Labour also succeeded in Selby West, where they won two councillors due to the size of the area.

Selby’s Labour group leader, Bob Packham, said the party had won all their target seats and performed well in more rural areas like Thorpe Willoughby and Hambleton.

He said that, though people may like to think local issues dominate local elections, in reality national politics play a big part. People were “fed up” of the Conservative Party, he added.

Coun Packham said he and fellow Labour councillors would make their presence felt on North Yorkshire Council.

The successful councillors will serve the final year of North Yorkshire County Council and will then be the voice of the public for the first four years of the new over-arching single authority when it launches on April 1, 2023.

Current Selby district councillors will carry on representing their wards until the council is abolished in March next year.

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