By Anna Whittaker, Local Democracy Reporter
A Labour leader has been elected to Newark and Sherwood District Council after the Conservatives suffered defeat in the local elections.
The shock results after the poll on May 4 involved the Conservative leader and deputy leader both losing their seats.
On May 23, councillors elected Labour’s Cllr Paul Peacock to lead the council for the next four years.
He said the Labour Party has formed ‘relationships’ with the Independents for Newark and the Liberal Democrats, meaning they will form a coalition group because none of the three won enough seats to hold overall political control alone.
After the May 4 elections, the Tories took just 14 of the 39 available seats, compared to the 29 they held after the 2019 elections.
The Labour Party and Independents won 11 seats each while the Liberal Democrats won three seats.
The Conservatives lost three seats to independents in Beacon, including the now-former Conservative Council Leader, David Lloyd.
Cllr Rhona Holloway announced earlier this month that she would lead the Conservative Group.
The Conservative loss follows a high-profile campaign by ‘Protect Newark’s Green Spaces’ which followed Newark and Sherwood District Council’s plan to remove four trees from the town to make way for a car park extension.
An environmental campaign followed and the council eventually reversed the decision to cut down the trees in November 2021.
Cllr Peacock said the recent local elections revealed a “seismic change across the country”.
He said the Independents of Newark marked a “breath of fresh air” for the authority.
He added: “The local elections have proved to be a call for change. A change in the way Newark and Sherwood does its business.
“My style of leadership will be less about me and more about us.”
But Conservative Cllr Sue Saddington accused the Independents of Newark of “propping up Labour” to form an administration with three Liberal Democrats.
She said: “Although they claim to be Independent, I would question that.
“I wonder if they realise they will have no alternative but to vote with Labour if they are to keep the administration in power.
“Do you really think that those voting for the Independents in Newark knew that they were really voting for Labour?
“We as an opposition will scrutinise every decision you make.”
Newly elected leader Cllr Peacock told the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting that he was “really pleased and raring to go”.
He said: “At the moment we’ve got a minority administration, there are challenges with that for sure.
“But tonight a number of parties supported us. We are happy to work with them and find a way forward.
“We’ve got a number of groups supporting each other and I hope the Conservatives will come to the table in that same way.”
He added: “We had a big problem with the library garden and as a council, it should’ve been handled differently. I think that has had a big impact on the election results.”
Newly elected Cllr Rowan Cozens, leader of Independents for Newark, said she was “absolutely delighted”.
She said: “It’s really exciting for us to think that we only got together as a group a year ago.
“We are absolutely thrilled. It all looks really good for our future here.
“People want positive ways of going ahead, they are fed up of adversarial bickering and party infighting.
“I think the way we’ve behaved with each other in the first few weeks bodes well for an exciting district council going forward.”
Cllr Keith Melton, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat Group, said: “I think the categorisation that it will be us supporting Labour is wrong. It is going to be a partnership.
“I think the Conservative leadership in the country has been abysmal and unfortunately for local councillors, they have suffered the backlash.
“I think residents realised there was an opportunity for change.”
Labour councillor Celia Brooks was elected as Chairman of the council for the next four years, after gaining more votes than the Conservative nomination Penny Rainbow.
Cllr Jean Hall, an Independent, was elected as vice chairman.