The Lib Dems have ousted the Conservatives to win control of Bath & North East Somerset in the local council elections but the Tories have held on to power in neighbouring South Gloucestershire.
Casualties in B&NES included the council’s leader Cllr Tim Warren, who represented Mendip ward, where North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg lives. Mr Warren lost his seat to David Wood, from the Liberal Democrat Focus Team.
Anger over Brexit appears to have taken its toll on the district’s Conservative candidates with Mr Warren saying after the count: “We expected it to be bad but not this bad…The electorate has spoken tonight. They have been very angry. Whether they have spoken to us or central government is another matter.”
He said he felt sorry for members of his Cabinet who had worked very hard over the years: “They have run the council well and I think they had lost their seats through no fault of their own.
“We have been told on the streets that they couldn’t trust the Conservatives any more, wouldn’t vote for Conservatives because of Brexit basically.”
Other high-profile councillors who lost their seats were Bob Goodman, Cabinet Member for Development & Neighbourhoods, who represented Combe Down, and Mark Shelford (Lyncombe ward) Cabinet Member for Sustainablity, Resilience, Highways & Transport.
The Lib Dems now have 36 seats on B&NES Council and the Tories 11. There are six Independents, four Labour members, plus one representing the Labour & Co-operative Party, and one Liberal Democrat Focus Team member.
The Lib Dems’ gains included taking Keynsham East from the Conservatives, with Hal McFie and Andy Wait elected.
Meanwhile in neighbouring South Gloucestershire, where the Conservatives won an overall majority four years ago with 40 of the 70 seats, there were just 61 seats up for grabs following a boundary review.
The Conservatives won 33 seats, while the Liberal Democrats have 17 and Labour 11.
The Tories lost two of their frontbenchers to the Lib Dems last night – Rob Creer, Cabinet Member for Corporate Resources, who represented Chipping Sodbury, lost by just 12 votes while Cllr Marian Gilpin (Frampton Cotterell) who chaired the Health Scrutiny Committee, also lost her seat.
The Tories said they are delighted to have retained a majority “with plenty of new voices and fresh faces” and would be continuing their work in unlocking South Gloucestershire’s potential.
The Lib Dems meanwhile declared that they are back in the lead across Thornbury & Yate, putting their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate Claire Young on track to beat Conservative MP Luke Hall at the next General Election.
We’ll have more election coverage in our next edition