'One party Lib Dem state' fears in Cheltenham prompts vow from defeated Tory chief

Former Tory opposition leader Tim Harman has vowed to continue to hold council to account amid fears of a “Liberal Democrat one party state” in Cheltenham. The Lib Dems surged to win 36 out of the 40 seats on offer at Cheltenham Borough Council in last week’s elections.

And the Conservatives, who had five councillors in the previous council, lost all of their seats. The opposition at the Municipal Offices will be led by the Green Party who have three councillors and the sole remaining People Against Bureaucracy councillor.

Former Tory group leader Tim Harman, who lost his Park seat, says he will continue to scrutinise the council as a member of the public. “I have been touched by the many messages I have received from residents and friends since my defeat at the Borough Council elections last Thursday.

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“It has been a pleasure and an honour to serve Park Ward for the last 12 years. I continue to serve as the County Councillor for the area," he said.

“If you take part in the democratic process you must respect the outcome so can I congratulate those who won in Park ward and across the Town.

"However, I do have concerns that the results of the elections with the Liberal Democrat's having all but four seats on the Council with no Conservative representation at all, poses a real danger for Cheltenham - the term ‘one party state’ comes to mind.

“At a time when there are, for example, major issues such as the important West of Cheltenham Development, and others, I would question where a firm challenge will come from. It is important that the Liberal Democrat group must be prepared to seriously challenge their own cabinet in public. Scrutiny must not be in name only.

“I will do my best with others to question those in charge and would ask members of the Public also to do so through the councillors that they elected and by the public questions process at council and committee meetings.”

While the Tories have been wiped out on the Borough Council they still have representation at Gloucestershire County Council level with four councillors at Shire Hall. The town's MP is Conservative Alex Chalk.

Former Liberal Democrat cabinet member Max Wilkinson, who did not stand for re-election, said his party had a “fantastic set of results for Cheltenham”. The Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Cheltenham expressed commiserations to the defeated Tories and thanked them all for serving the spa town.

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