Rainbow coalition to rule Eden

Date: Friday 17th May 2019

VILLAGES around the Beacon will not be built in Penrith as part of any new masterplan for the area, Eden Council’s new leadership confirmed this week.

The formation of a “rainbow coalition” between the Liberal Democrat-led “2019 Alliance” and the Independent Group to take control of the authority’s executive was confirmed this week by the respective leaders of the groups, Virginia Taylor (Lib Dem, Penrith West) and Mary Robinson (Ind, Kirkoswald).

The Lib Dems had already made a pact with the small Labour and Green Party groups — each of two councillors — immediately after the local government election results were announced on 3rd May. It took their total number of seats to 14 — the same as the Conservatives, who lost six councillors in the elections.

Mrs Robinson said: “We knew it was up to us to compromise in the best interest of the whole of Eden as the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives couldn’t come to any arrangement and we didn’t want to see officers use emergency powers to run the council.

“After the elections, we spoke to the Conservatives first last week then the Liberal Democrats before speaking to the Conservatives again. But we felt they would continue as before and there isn’t a mandate for that. On Monday I decided to speak to Virginia again and we found a compromise.

“We will be putting together a plan for the town but as for the masterplan and three villages north of the Beacon, those plans are to be scrapped.”

As part of the agreement, Ms Taylor has become the leader of the council, with Mrs Robinson as her deputy.

“It’s going to be a totally different administration to what we have seen previously. Two women working together is a totally different ball game,” said Mrs Robinson.

“I am the more experienced but I think Virginia will be a very good leader. She is highly intelligent and very skilled and I feel we will complement each other.

“They already had an agreement with the two smaller groups so were in a senior position and I think you’ll see this coalition make new ground at the council.” Both leaders have said they want to undertake a “wholescale review”, highlighting refreshing the council’s housing development fund, redressing the number of services devolved to parish and town councils including footway lights, and an improved climate change policy.

Ms Taylor said: “We have lift off. We feel it is the right thing for Eden and means we can implement an agenda which isn’t just good for Eden now but also for future generations.

“We need to develop and move forward but as the whole of the district, not just Penrith. The masterplan wasn’t well received so it is up to us to present something which gets a majority of support.

“I feel really positive about this agreement and what we can do. The masterplan will be scrapped. We want to sort out the issue of the future of public toilets in Penrith. Recycling contracts are coming up so we need to get that right and we need to look at how we can make Eden more sustainable with climate change.

“Brexit will have a big impact on our agriculture industry and coming out of the EU and the Common Agricultural Policy means there are a lot of things we can do with hard work and imagination to improve the local economy.”