Lib Dems sweep to power in Bath as Conservatives slump

The Liberal Democrats have won control of Bath and North East Somerset Council from the Conservatives.

Sir Vince Cable’s party won 37 seats – including the ward where prominent Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees-Mogg lives – to gain an overall majority of 15.

Casualties included leader of the council Tim Warren, who lost his Mendip seat to Liberal Democrat David Wood, cabinet member for transport Mark Shelford and veteran Conservative councillor Les Kew, who was beaten by 20-year-old Ryan Wills.

The Liberal Democrats celebrate taking control of Bath and North East Somerset Council from the Conservatives (Rod Minchin/PA).
The Liberal Democrats celebrate taking control of Bath and North East Somerset Council from the Conservatives (Rod Minchin/PA)

The Conservatives had won control of the council in 2015 from the Liberal Democrats and held 36 seats, but were left with just 11.

One of the big election issues in Bath was the introduction in 2020 of a clean air zone in the city and the imposing of a levy on taxis, buses, coaches, lorries and vans.

The outgoing Conservative leader blamed Brexit for the “kicking” they received at the ballot box, but stopped short of calling for Prime Minister Theresa May to resign.

Tim Warren, the outgoing council leader, called for a 'change in action' from Prime Minister Theresa May. (Rod Minchin/PA)
Tim Warren, the outgoing council leader, called for a ‘change in action’ from Prime Minister Theresa May (Rod Minchin/PA)

Speaking after he lost his seat, Mr Warren, who will remain leader of the council until the annual general meeting, said: “I feel we’ve been given a kicking for something that wasn’t our fault.

“I don’t think people are happy. The people that voted to remain blame us for leaving and the people that voted to leave blame us because we haven’t left yet.

“I think it’s almost anti-political. I think a lot of people didn’t turn out and I think they want to punish us for a lack of action in Government, if I am honest.

“I’m sure there are one or two things we’ve done locally they don’t like, but on a whole I think it’s national issues.

“The guy who took my seat did a great campaign and when you are running a council you have to work full-time, and I didn’t have the time to match him.

“It sounds a bit cheap to blame anybody, but Brexit didn’t help.”

Asked whether there needed to be changes in leadership or policies at the top of the Conservative Party, Mr Warren replied: “There needs to be a change in action.”

Councillor Dine Romero, the Lib Dem group leader, said she was “stunned” by the victory.

“I am beyond pleased and it is a most astonishing result and far greater than could possibly be expected or even hoped for,” she said.

“Quite clearly it is a combination of national and local issues that have tipped the scales in our favour this time round.

“We’ve won more seats in North East Somerset than we’ve ever won before, and all in all a jolly good day for Liberal Democrats.”

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