Deals to be done in the wake of the local council elections

First published in News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Politics and business reporter

AFTER the hangovers cleared, party chiefs on Southampton City Council were hitting the phones preparing for possible deals to form the next administration.

Thursday's elections left Labour and Tories with 18 seats, gaining two each, while the Lib Dems lost four to end up with 12 .

It almost certainly brings to an end their four-year administration but leaves no one in overall control for the sixth election running.

Labour, the last party to have an overall majority back in 1999, was predicting it would become the largest party. It failed.

Today it emerged that one of the reasons the Lib Dems lost was their plans for a travellers' transit camp at Monks Brook, Swaythling.

They lost a seat in that ward to campaigner turned candidate Jane Odgers.

Don't miss four pages of analysis, news and results in today's Daily Echo

To view the full results visit the elections page on the website.

The controversial proposal, currently the subject of a council planning application which attracted more than 100 representations, largely objections, could now be ditched.

The Tories want to use an existing site at Kanes Hill.

Messages on the Daily Echo website summed up the political backlash over the plan. One read: "I've voted Lib Dem all my life. Last night, I voted for the Tories in Swaythling on the back of the travellers site issue."

Another said: "A group of us who had never met before have been fighting against the development of Monks Brook since January.

"The Conservatives have helped us immensely, Jane, who won in Swaythling was a resident - and before January none of us knew much about politics. we have worked hard to secure a candidate who will take action."

So the Lib Dems now find themselves relegated from council leaders to playing kingmaker to the next administration, which will be decided in two weeks' time.

Outgoing council leader Adrian Vinson, who declined to discuss his own future: "We'll be meeting the other groups to consider the outcome. Our position will be influential. We are prepared to talk to those who'll talk to us."

The outcome could cast doubt over other projects.

Labour and Tories are set to clash over proposals to "out-source" services such as IT, benefits and customer service, including about 600 jobs.

Their positions are ideologically irreconcilable on the crunch issue, which has Lib Dem support, and will be decided in July.

Other decisions such as an ice rink site and the hunt for a wow' factor for the city could be pursued more vigorously.

But one thing that is likely to remain the same is weekly household bin collections.

However, in the euphoria of victory the leading parties were not revealing their hands.

Tory deputy leader, councillor Royston Smith, was keen to point out his party got the highest share of the vote adding "the Lib Dems are in some sort of meltdown".

Cllr Smith, however, refused to be drawn on what his party would do with Lib Dem schemes only saying: "Projects that are worthwhile will stay with us."

The party has already pledged a public vote on a new Las Vegas-style casino in Southampton if the Government can revive its plans.

The laser light show for the Civic Centre, due for trials in the autumn, could also be axed. A poll in the Daily Echo found only 26 per cent thought it a good idea.

Labour group leader June Bridle said she would wait to see who was in charge of the Lib Dems before considering any talks.

She suggested her party would be likely to oppose the creation of Academy schools as part of a shake-up of secondary school education although they'd back projects "promoting the city."

She said despite not getting overall control the Labour party had a mandate for its policies.

Councillor Bridle said she was disappointed Tory councillor Gavin Dick held on to his Sholing seat, depriving Labour of three gains.

The turnout on Thursday was 30.2 per cent, the second highest in the past decade.

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