THE CONTROLLING Conservatives have retained a large majority on Solihull council despite gains for Labour and the Green Party.
Just over 50,000 residents turned out to vote in the council elections – 31 per cent of the electorate.
Counting took place today at the North Solihull Sports Centre in Chelmsley Wood for 17 of the borough’s 51 seats.
The Tories gained marginal seat Lyndon from the Lib Dems, and displaced councillor John Windmill, the Leader of the Liberal Democrat group, from his seat of 40 years in Olton.
The Green Party strengthened its mandate in opposition, gaining Castle Bromwich – traditionally a Conservative seat- in a ‘landslide victory’ for newcomer Cheryl Sait-Buxton.
There was also a defeat for UKIP, in line with the national trend, as leader Debbie Evans lost Kingshurst and Fordbridge to Labour.
It is thought a collapse in the UKIP vote explains the Conservative and Labour gains – with many ex UKIP voters switching to the Tories.
As usual, only one of the three seats for each ward was contested – a total of 17 seats – meaning voting only took place for a third of the council.
Leader of the council, Bob Sleigh, believes it was the Conservatives’ long-term and sustainable economic plan that saw them retain seats.
He said: “I think from a Conservative perspective, we have increased our majority and we just have to get on with what the people trust us to do and that’s to deal with the economy and maintain good services.
“The Conservatives are the green party in Solihull, we have 15 green flag parks, that’s more than any other area in the West Midlands.
“The environment is critical to us, although we have a major car manufacturer in the borough, we are working with them to deliver new green technology and infrastructure.
“And the work we have done with transport connectivity and infrastructure is going to have a major effect on air quality.
“The primary policy for us is one of sustainable economic growth. We face a post Brexit economy, our economy is advanced manufacturing, we need to make sure we can do everything locally to support our businesses in Solihull.
“Inequality is also a big issue, but people getting jobs gives them a real good start in life and we are committed as a Conservative authority to investing and creating those jobs through skills and infrastructure investment.
“We have spent nearly half a billion pounds in regenerating North Solihull, and we are working with health services to deal with public health issues.”
Coun Windmill, who was the borough’s longest serving councillor, said: “We have obviously seen an increase in the Labour vote both in Olton and in Lyndon – the two wards that we’ve lost – and I think its a follow-on from the general election with the Brexit vote. Solihull was a Brexit area and that showed.
“I thank the people who have supported me and given me the opportunity to stand in Olton and I intend to remain active in the residents’ associations and in the community.”
The Green Party enjoyed a successful evening, securing around 70 per cent of the vote in Castle Bromwich and Chelmsley Wood.
New councillor, Cheryl Buxton-Sait, said: “I thank people for putting their faith in me, we worked hard and we talked to people. So I think the fact that for 18 months we were embedded in the community talking to people made all the difference.”
Leader of the Green group, James Burn, celebrated the party’s gain which he put down to the Green’s philosophy of localism.
He said: “The big difference between us and other parties is localism. We listen to other people and give them power over decisions in their lives.
“The key is in the word; being a representative means actually representing people rather than doing what you want.
“Green party philosophy is much bigger than just the environment, especially here in the borough, there are issues around inequality, poverty and social justice.
“The reality is, we are one of the most unequal boroughs in the country, the Meriden constituency is the most polarised in the country.
“Inequality in the UK is not changing drastically. In Solihull, it is increasing.
“We want to localise spending on our institutions and we need to rethink the council’s drive on foreign investment because, with Brexit, that is a very shaky way to build an economy.”
The successful Labour candidate for Kingshurst and Fordbridge, David Cole, put his win down to ‘local knowledge’.
He said: “I have been a chairman of Kingshurst Parish Council for ten years and I have plenty of local knowledge and I take the time to listen to what people say.
“We specifically focused on local issues. People talk about potholes, bus services, schools funding – that is what people are focused on – how is day to day life going to be affected.
“We want to make sure everyone can get into the school of their choice – education is the basis for going forward – education, education, education.”
The results mean the Conservatives now have 32 councillors, the Greens 11, Lib Dems four, Labour two and UKIP one.
There is one Independent councillor, Jeff Potts, who was involved in an immigration tweets scandal and was ousted from the Conservative group.
In the West Midlands, Labour endured heavy losses as the momentum of party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s general election result failed to take hold amid an anti-semitism row.
Conservatives attained majorities in Dudley and Walsall while a historic result in Nuneaton and Bedworth also saw the Tories take a majority.