The Conservatives have narrowly maintained their control over local government in North Yorkshire as voters across England’s largest county backed a spectrum of other political parties.
By securing 47 seats of the 90 on the new unitary authority, North Yorkshire Council, the Conservaties have just one more than the minimum number of councillors required for a majority, losing more than 20 per cent of their share of the vote to that at the last election for North Yorkshire County Council five years ago.
Although not directly comparable, in 2017 the Tories won 76 per cent of the seats, with the Independents getting 14 per cent, Labour six per cent and the Liberal Democrats just four per cent.
The election for the unitary authority saw Independent candidates secure 13 seats, Labour and the Liberal Democrats 12 each and the Green Party will be represented at the top tier of local government in the county for the first time with some five seats.
Deputy leader of the Conservative group Gareth Dadd said he felt the result reflected “a usual mid-term reaction” to a government.
He said: “I’m delighted that we have secured an overall majority, but above anything else we can move forward with certainty and deliver the savings and, hopefully, devolution, that the sub-region deserves.”
The leader of the Independent group on the county council, Stuart Parsons, said he looked forward to working with all members of the new council, adding: “At least we are no longer in a one-party state.”
Labour group leader Eric Broadbent said: “We’re over the moon, we’ve trebled our number of councillors on the county. We’re going to have a lot more influence and give our residents a lot more say in what’s happening in their communities.”
Bryn Griffiths, the Liberal Democrat group leader, said: “I think the electorate have seen the error of the Tories. It gives us a great opportunity to challenge them at the county council and get support for people who need support, such as those living off food banks and those on free school meals during the school holidays.”
Kevin Foster, who has become one of the new Green councillors after winning Hipswell and Colburn by just eight votes, said: “It was the most uncomfortable day of my life! It gives us a greater chance to have our voice heard and we now have to be considered as we work to make a cleaner, greener, fairer place.”
Among the high-profile figures to lose out in the poll were Jim Bailey, the long-standing chairman of the North York Moors National Park Authority, who secured just 32 fewer votes than Liberal Democrat Steven Mason.
At the count for Hambleton district, Mark Robson, the leader of Hambleton District Council, cut a bitterly disappointed figure after failing to overcome a challenge from Dave Whitfield, of the Green Party.
Another high-profile councillor, Helen Grant, the deputy leader of Richmondshire District Council, lost to Conservative Tom Jones.
Elsewhere, John Cattanach, a Selby district Conservative councillor of 23 years, who hit out at the Tory party’s “flawed and manipulated” selection process after he failed in his bid to become the Tory candidate for Cawood and Escrick, scored almost double the votes as an independent than Tory candidate Georgina Ashton.
Similarly in Ryedale, well-known former Tory councillor Caroline Goodrick who was not selected as the Conservative candidate, won the Sheriff Hutton and Derwent division as an Independent.
Elected councillors will serve one year as county councillors for the existing North Yorkshire County Council and another four years as councillors for the new unitary authority.
Some 183,564 of the 478,539 electorate voted, representing a 38.4 per cent turn-out.