THURROCK Council’s control now lies with the “minor” groups, Labour has admitted.
John Kent, the group’s leader, made the admission after face-to-face talks with Rob Gledhill, the now Tory group leader, were cancelled late last week.
Now it looks as though Labour will aim to run the council with a minority administration.
Mr Kent said Labour and the Tories would have to stake their claim then “sit and watch” what Ukip and the independents do.
He said: “The simple truth is that Labour is the largest party with 23 of the 49 seats.
“The logical thing is for us to put our proposals for the coming year to the annual meeting (next Wednesday); for the second largest party (the Tories with 18) to do the same; make the argument and then sit and watch where the votes of the two minor groups UKIP (six seats) and independents (two) go.”
Last week, a well-placed source within the council told us “talks” were planned between the reds and blues, and some had already taken place.
Our source told us they would “lay money” on a “grand coalition” forming between the Tories and Labour in order to keep Ukip at bay.
However, Mr Kent has quashed any talk of this happening, but added: “Yes we will all talk - it would be stupid and petulant not to do so - but I don't think deals, covert or overt, are necessary.”
Mr Kent blamed our front page exclusive last week for cancelling last Friday afternoon’s meeting with Mr Gledhill.
He said it made it “impossible for constructive discussions to take place for some days”. But when we pressed him he would not elaborate.
The Labour chief has since said: “I received a request from a senior Conservative member asking for a meeting.
“I was not prepared to meet until after I had the opportunity to properly consider what we, as a Labour group, wanted to see but was – initially – happy to agree to a meeting (last) Friday afternoon.”
However Mr Gledhill told the Gazette it was in fact the Labour leader who set up last Friday’s meet. He said: “John Kent invited me to the meeting. There were no details on what was to be discussed.
Ukip group leader Robert Ray and leader of the independents, Barry Palmer
“This meeting was then cancelled on Thursday afternoon, again without details.”
The Gazette has since asked Mr Kent about what was on the agenda for last Friday’s meeting, whether the meet would be rescheduled or if he would be arranging similar meetings with Ukip or Independent councillors on the council.
He did not respond directly to our questions.
Meanwhile Mr Gledhill, who has taken over as group leader from Phil Anderson who lost his Stanford-East and Corringham Town seat to Ukip, revealed since the cancelled meeting there had been no contact between the reds and blues.
He said: “Next week is the chance to demonstrate a more grown up approach to local politics.
“We have the opportunity to 'reset the clock', draw a line under what are seen as wrongs that need to be righted and enter a new phase of politics in Thurrock. Continuing political instability in Thurrock does not send out the message that this is a borough to invest in.”
Mr Kent added: “Working together irrespective of who is in charge is the only way Thurrock Council can continue to encourage private businesses to invest in our borough, bringing new jobs and new hope.”