It’s the masterplan wot lost it

Date: Monday 13th May 2019

APOLOGIES for a tortuous play on a famous headline in a national newspaper following the general election in 1992, but it seems to sum up the events in last week’s local government elections in Eden, the results of which were announced on Friday after the paper had gone to press.

The Conservatives lost six seats, and with them their overall majority on the district council, with gains for the Liberal Democrats, Green Party and Labour. Eden is now a hung council, with no single party having control.

Some Tories are putting the losses down to the Brexit effect, but there is little doubt that the unpopular Penrith masterplan put forward by the previous Conservative-ruled executive had a major impact.

In the two Penrith wards which would have been most directly affected by the masterplan, Penrith Carleton and Penrith North, for instance, there was a huge swing away from the Conservatives, and even candidates in rural parts of the district said it was one of the major issues on the minds of voters.

The result of the election means there is now deadlock, with no alliance of parties as yet able to secure control. The wide-ranging political hue of councillors makes the authority more pluralistic and representative of more of Eden’s residents, but it does pose a problem in deciding just who is in charge.

There is urgent business to attend to following the council’s annual meeting next week and a deal needs to be reached quickly before Penrith Town Hall becomes a mirror of the House of Commons, with nobody able to agree on anything.