THE Conservatives bucked the national trend to retain their vast majority control over Rugby Borough Council.
The borough council, which now has 42 seats rather than 48 following broundary changes, consists of 25 Conservatives, 10 Labour, six Liberal Democrats and one independent. The biggest stories of the day were independent councillor and former Conservative Howard Roberts retaining his seat in Dunsmore ward and Howard Avis, of Labour, clinching one potential Conservative seat in Rokeby and Overslade ward by a knife-edge. The Rokeby and Overslade ward result also means that Mayor Gwen Hotten and Bill Lewis will no longer be on the council.
Newcomers to the council are Liberal Democrat Dale Keeling, for Eastlands, Conservatives Belinda Garcia, for Revel and Binley Woods, and Chris Pacey-Day, for Wolvey and Shilton, and Labour members Rob McNally, for New Bilton, and Howard Avis, for Rokeby and Overslade. Howard Roberts, who quit the Tories earlier this year over a policy dispute, beat his nearest rival, Conservative Graham Francis, by more than 200 votes in Dunsmore ward.
Turnout varied across the borough, with 39 per cent voting in Dunsmore ward but just 24 per cent in Coton and Broughton. Overall it was 32.4 per cent.
Council leader Conservative Craig Humphrey said he woke up to today’s national headlines not knowing if Rugby Conservatives were going to suffer a “bloody nose”.
“I’m absolutely delighted with the result - Rugby bucked the national trend. We went into the election with about 58 per cent countrol of the council and now we have 60 per cent, by anyone’s standards that is a success,” he said.
“On the doorstep national issues did get raised, but in Rugby our message has been different. We’ve saved every penny and reinvested it back into Rugby without changing the service that council tax payers get from us and I think that has acted as a buffer against the problems that other councils in the UK have suffered from.”
Jim Shera, Rugby Labour leader, said his group would continue address the issues that matter most to Rugbeians.
“The new ward boundaries have brought in a lot of changes. I’m very happy with the new council. We could have done better but we’ve come very close to the Conservatives in several wards,” he said.
“The results show quite a good response to the current situation and tells us that we must keep on fighting the cuts and protect key services and try to create employment opportunities. The number of empty shops in the town centre must be addressed too so we will fight on.”
Jerry Roodhouse, Lib Dem leader, said that in the context of national headlines today, it could have been much worse for his party.
“With the reduced boundaries and the swelling tide of Labour councillors across the country we seem to have held our own in Rugby,” he said.
“I, along with all the Lib Dem group, care very much for Rugby and now we must move on and prioritise the things which people want to improve - namely the town centre and the issues surrounding the mast site. We’ll continue to fight for Rugby regardless of what Nick Clegg’s doing in Westminster.”
He added: “I’m very sad that Cllr Bill Lewis and Cllr Gwen Hotten will no longer be on the council, they have been good councillors and it’s a great shame to lose them. I’m sure Bill will continue his work in the community regardless.”