Shropshire Star

Conservatives keep control of Shropshire Council but lose leader after mixed election results

The Conservatives have retained control of Shropshire Council but failed to replicate the party's success across the country – and suffered a shock defeat for their leader.

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Liberal Democrat Rob Wilson celebrates after defeating council leader Peter Nutting

The result sees the Tories remain the majority party on the council, but a series of close races, the loss of five seats, and leader Peter Nutting, will lead to questions within the administration.

The party secured 43 seats – five fewer than their 2017 tally but still a commanding majority after all 74 seats were voted on.

There were successes for all the major opposition parties with the Green Party leading the way, adding three seats to give it a total of four on the council.

Labour also added three, making a total of nine, while the Lib Dems gained two, taking their tally to 14.

There are also now four independent Shropshire councillors, including long-serving member David Minnery who won one of the two seats in Market Drayton West after being deselected by the Conservatives.

Peter Nutting left the vote before the announcement that he had lost
Alex Wagner, 20, swung Bowbrook to the Lib Dems

Mr Nutting's loss was undoubtedly the major shock of the election, with cabinet colleagues suggesting that the former leader had paid the price for spearheading plans to build the North West Relief Road in Shrewsbury.

Mr Nutting, also a previous leader of Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council, lost his Copthorne ward to the Lib Dems' Rob Wilson – 995 votes to 476.

Speaking as he left the counting venue at Shrewsbury Sports Village Mr Nutting said it had been "a privilege to represent Copthorne on Shrewsbury & Atcham and Shropshire Council".

Councillor Steve Davenport, the Conservative cabinet member for highways and one of Mr Nutting's strongest supporters, said he believed the backing for the relief road had lost him the seat.

Battlefield councillor Dean Carroll said Mr Nutting's bold decisions may have cost him
The votes were counted at the Sports Village in Shrewsbury

It was a view echoed by Conservative cabinet member Dean Carroll, who retained his Battlefield seat.

Councillor Davenport, who was re-elected in his St Martins division, said: "Peter was an incredibly good leader and I am very sorry he has gone. He has been a councillor for something like 40 years.

"He has done an awful lot for Shrewsbury and Shropshire, so to cut all that good work out, people have not seen the history of what he has done."

Councillor Carroll said: ""He made a brave decision to press ahead with the North West Relief Road, knowing it was right for the people of Shrewsbury – and the whole central part of Shropshire.

"It is in the right interests of the people of Shrewsbury as a whole and that has cost him his seat and I really feel for him. He has delivered what we have been trying to do for decades and successive councils have failed to do.

"He has provided over 40 years service but it is democracy and it is the business we are all in, and sometimes when you make bold choices that are right for the future of the town, sometimes they can be unpopular."

Lib Dem leader in Shropshire Roger Evans watches on at the count
Labour's Caroline Bagnall gained Broseley from the Conservative Simon Harris
Former Broseley councillor Simon Harris hears the bad news

Mr Nutting's replacement Councillor Wilson, who was standing for election for the first time, said that people wanted a change of direction from the authority.

He said there had been concern over the relief road, the council's purchase of Shrewsbury's shopping centres, the future of the town's bus station, and the amount of potholes on the county's roads.

He said: "Across the board people in Shrewsbury are saying they have had enough and they want change and whoever is running the administration needs to take heed of what has happened. We cannot have more of the same for the next four years."

New Shropshire Council make-up

  • Conservatives: 43 (-5)

  • Liberal Democrat: 14 (+2)

  • Labour: 9 (+3)

  • Green: 4 (+3)

  • Independent: 4 (-3)

Questions will now turn to the leadership of the authority, with Deputy Leader Councillor Steve Charmley, who retained his Whittington seat, becoming acting leader.

A decision on the leadership will be taken at the group's annual meeting, expected to take place later this month.

Councillor Charmley has said he would put himself forward for the job if Mr Nutting lost his seat.

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