Independents and Conservatives agree deal to run Wrexham Council
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Wrexham Council is once again set to be led by a coalition of independents and Conservatives following last week’s local elections.
Talks have been ongoing over the weekend regarding who will form the next administration after voters went to the polls on Thursday, May 6.
The results saw no group achieve an overall majority on the 56-seat council, with independents holding 23, Labour on 14, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru on nine each and the Liberal Democrats with just one.
However, two previously separate independent groups led by Cllrs Mark Pritchard and David A Bithell announced yesterday they would be merging to form a new one with 21 members.
Known as “the Independent Group”, it has today (Wednesday, May 11) been confirmed they have reached an agreement with the Conservatives to run the local authority for the next five years.
The council was also run by an alliance of the two former independent groups and Conservatives during the last term.
In a joint statement, the independents and Conservatives said: “This agreement provides a stable and experienced partnership of elected members to build on and continue the work which has been carried out over the previous five years.
“This is an exciting time for Wrexham where we have some major investment projects like the World Heritage Site, Wrexham Gateway, National Museum of Football, City of Culture and Wrexham AFC aspirations to reach the football league and a purpose built 5,500 seated stand with prospects for international football returning to Wrexham.”
Cllr Pritchard and Conservative group leader Hugh Jones said: “We are pleased to have reached a workable agreement to run the council for the next five years and we will continue to build on our success.
“We will work tirelessly to address the many concerns which have been raised from our communities across the whole county borough.
“We will continue to work with all elected members, all groups and community councils for the benefit of the residents of Wrexham county borough.”
Labour and Plaid Cymru, who both made gains at the elections, will form the main opposition parties, alongside the one remaining Liberal Democrat councillors and two non-aligned independent members.
Labour also held talks with the independent group about the possibility of working together, but the discussions did not prove successful.
Group leader Dana Davies claimed negotiations stalled after she said a deal was conditional on all councillors undertaking training in anti-Semitism, anti-homophobia, ant-racism and anti-sexism.
She said every member of the proposed coalition would also have been required to sign up to a motion condemning racism and misogyny.
Cllr Davies said: “The agreement would have been a UK-first, it would have been ground-breaking.
“It would have required every councillor to embrace a tolerant, compassionate, kinder form of politics.
“But instead, the Independents have done a deal the Tories again, in what looks like pure self-interest based on keeping the same men in the same jobs as they had before the election.
“This is a sad day for Wrexham. We had a chance to turn the corner, to end decades of bitter politics and hatred.
“Instead, Independents and Tories are bunkering down to protect their own positions.”
Cllr Marc Jones, leader of the Plaid Cymru group also accused the coalition of being more interested in retaining power than representing the electorate.
He said: “People in Wrexham voted in extra Plaid and Labour councillors on Thursday but both parties have now been excluded from decision making.
“I wonder how many people voted independent without realising they would be propping up a Tory-independent regime?
“It devalues democracy when you see backroom deals being done by people who appear more interested in power than representing people.
“Despite some honourable exceptions, independent candidates have taken the public for a ride and it’s no wonder people are cynical about politics.
“The Plaid Cymru group of nine councillors will be a positive voice for change in the council and we’ll all be working for the communities we represent.”
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