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Conservatives' win narrow victory
Saturday, 24 May 2014
Pile of votes: Conservatives keep hold of the council
Relieved: Conservative leader Richard Cornelius after the last declaration was announced
Scalp: Labour took control of East Barnet ward, a former Tory stronghold
Almost winners: Labour Group leader Alison Moore says her party will 'harangue' the Tories
Last man standing: Jack Cohen is the sole Liberal Democrat on the authority now
THERE was heartbreak and relief at the Allianz Park sports arena tonight, as Labour came agonisingly close to gaining overall control of Barnet Council for the first time.
With 19 out of 21 wards declared, and next month’s delayed Colindale election widely expected to go to Labour, the party needed just two out of three seats in the three-way marginal seat of Childs Hill to get the 32 councillors it needed to oust the Conservative administration.
But despite the Liberal Democrats enduring a miserable evening at the, during which they finished behind UKIP and the Green Party in virtually every ward, group leader Jack Cohen held onto his Childs Hill seat, while the remaining to places went to Conservative candidates Shimon Ryde and Peter Zinkin.
The final tally was declared just after 11pm on Friday at the Saracens’ stadium in Mill Hill.
The results are provisional as the Colindale ward election was postponed after the death of Green Party candidate Jessica Yorke earlier this month, but if the Labour stronghold returns three red rosettes to the ward next month, then the standings in the authority will be 32 Conservatives, 30 Labour and one Liberal Democrat.
Speaking after the final result Labour group leader Alison Moore said she was “obviously disappointed”, but added: “I am proud of my team. We have managed to get elected more Labour councillors than we have ever had in Barnet, and provided Colindale votes for us, as they have for many years, we will have 30 councillors which is four more than we have had.”
Ms Moore added that the gains made by Labour showed that the Conservatives had angered voters over policies such as the One Barnet outsourcing programme, and its decision to remove cash parking meters and raise parking charges
She added: “I certainly don’t think that tonight’s result was an approval of the current Tory administration.”
Despite ultimately holding onto the reigns of power, it was a difficult night for the Conservative group, who lost a councillor each in Coppetts, West Hendon, Hale and Brunswick Park, and two more in Underhill. Labour took all three seats in East Barnet, ousting former cabinet member for customer access Robert Rams and cabinet member for planning and regulatory services Joanna Tambourides in the process.
Despite the significant losses, council leader Richard Cornelius said it was a positive result for the Tory group.
“Obviously I am delighted,” he told The Press. “Of course I was worried but we should never be over confident when interpreting the public’s wishes.”
The Conservatives held their seats in Mill Hill, Edgware, Garden Suburb, Golders Green, Hendon, High Barnet, Oakleigh and Finchley Church End.
They also gained a seat back in Totteridge after Brian Coleman, who was kicked out of the party after his conviction for assault last year, only managed to secure 265 votes in the ward he has represented since 1998.
Mr Cornelius cited Labour gains in local councils across London and the UK as evidence that voters were not turning against the local Conservative administration.
He said: “I think national politics intruded. We had the Lib Dem shrinkage, the growth of UKIP and the ‘kick the government’ attitude at the moment.”
As they did throughout the country today, the Liberal Democrats in the borough suffered a miserable night, with their vote share decimated, and candidates finishing last, or just in front of independent candidates, in most wards.
The party’s one success story Mr Cohen, admitted he was surprised to have kept his seat.
He said: “I am taken aback. I thought it was a lost cause given what happened at the rest of the count and nationally, I didn’t think I would hang on.
“I am grateful to the residents of Childs Hill for electing me again. I think I have been a good councillor and that is why I have been elected.”
With the new Conservative council split so evenly, all group leaders agreed that there was no room for complacency in any party.
Ms Moore added: “They [Conservatives] are going to have to be at every meeting, on time. We will harangue them and fight them on every vote and where we think they are wrong. We will be the voice of Barnet’s residents in the Town Hall.”
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