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Mixed reaction to Labour taking control of Southampton City Council
The reactions will partly boost incoming leader Richard Williams, but also hint at the challenges he faces now he is in power.
The new administration’s first job when it formally takes over Southampton City Council next week will be to sit down with union bosses in a bid to hammer out a deal to finally lift the industrial action hanging over the authority for the past 12 months.
If it can’t convince workers to sign up to its plans for dealing with budget cuts, it could face further disruption and a £12m bill from legal claims over the controversial pay cuts for staff forced through by the Tories last year.
However, once that huge task has been completed Labour councillors must then set about convincing commerce leaders they mean Business.
Union Unite has congratulated Cllr Williams and his team on victory in last Thursday’s elections, saying the result sent a “resounding message” to the Conservatives over cuts.
Regional secretary John Rowse said: “The people of this great city have stood up and said no more can you cut our services, slash our jobs and destroy our communities.
“The campaign to rid this city of the cuts scourge was a success because working people and their unions joined forces to unseat a council leadership that was out of touch with the needs of Southampton.”
Meanwhile, the reaction from business leaders to Labour has been far more measured.
Sally Lynskey, chief executive of Business Solent said wants to hear how Labour will help Southampton take its “many opportunities to earn its rightful place on the map of leading cities”.
She said: “Business Solent looks forward to receiving a briefing from the new leader of the council and working in partnership with his team to continue to strive to make the city the best place to work, invest, live, study and enjoy.”
Chris Treacher, managing director of Wise Catering, said he was concerned the party’s 50-point manifesto was “light on business issues”, and wants to see more done to encourage the “tentative signs of life coming back to the city”
He said: “The new Labour council must make sure that it listens to the views of businesses and shows that it is a party that supports economic prosperity for the city. An early test will be how the leader deals with the council pay issues.”