Independent councillors are at the 'epicentre of political revolution'

The ballot boxes lined up at the Huntingdonshire Election Count in St Ives.

The ballot boxes lined up at the Huntingdonshire Election Count in St Ives. - Credit: Terry Harris

Four years ago, newly elected to the all-Independent St Neots Town Council.

Cllr Stephen Ferguson at the count on Friday morning.

Cllr Stephen Ferguson at the count on Friday morning. - Credit: Archant

When I looked up, all I could see was blue. Huntingdonshire District Council, Cambridgeshire County Council and the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority have been under Conservative control since their inception.

Then, a year ago, two seismic events happened in quick succession. First, a coalition of Liberal-Democrats, Labour, and Independents narrowly forced the Conservatives out of Shire Hall. The day afterwards, Labour’s Dr Nik Johnson was elected Mayor of the combined authority.

As shocking as these results were, there have always been large bubbles of non-Conservative support across Cambridgeshire.

Not so in Huntingdonshire, which is the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell and used to be the Parliamentary seat of former Prime Minister John Major. It’s one of the safest Conservative seats in Parliament, and until Friday morning, it seemed as if it would be blue forever.

At the epicentre of this political revolution are Independent councillors. In the previous HDC administration, most Independent councillors were elected in St Neots.

Last Thursday, we saw Independent councillors claiming key Conservative scalps in St Ives (unseating HDC Leader Ryan Fuller), Huntingdon, and Yaxley (unseating HDC Chairman MacMcguire).

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With gains from Liberal Democrats, Labour and Green councillors, the Conservatives lost their overall majority at HDC for the first time since 1976. Other than a couple of Councillors in the Eatons and three in Ramsey, the Conservatives have been eliminated from the Market Towns, leaving them in control of mostly rural wards.

This means the next council will likely be an Independent led coalition. Negotiations are ongoing. Of course, some people will say that Independents cannot lead an administration. I disagree.

All of the Independent councillors elected last week are community champions, used to forming alliances, solving problems and getting the best out of people. Ideologies and tribalism have no place in local government. Independents are used to making decisions in the best interests of residents.

I also think that coalition is a better form of government than single-party control. Through my experience as part of the Joint Administration at County Council, collaboration, compromise and internal scrutiny lead to better policy overall.