In a significant shift of political dynamics, Liberal Democrat and Green Party councillors on Wealden District Council have come together to form the Alliance for Wealden. This cross-party co-operative group will assume governance of the council for the next four years, following the recent district elections.
With 13 Liberal Democrats, 11 Green Party members, 10 Independents, nine Conservatives, and two Labour councillors elected on May 4, no party secured an outright majority. However, the Liberal Democrats’ 13-seat victory positioned them as the largest party, prompting discussions that led to an agreement with the Greens to establish a decision-making Cabinet committee.
The newly appointed leader of the council is Liberal Democrat Councillor James Partridge, with Green Party councillor Rachel Millward as the deputy leader. Councillor Millward will also oversee the Housing & Benefits portfolio. The leadership position will alternate annually between the leaders of the two groups.
Councillor Partridge expressed optimism and enthusiasm for the newly formed alliance, highlighting the alignment between the Liberal Democrats and the Greens on key local issues. He emphasized the shared goal of delivering the changes desired by the majority of Wealden’s electorate and expressed excitement about leading the combined team in the coming year.
Echoing this sentiment, Councillor Millward stated that residents’ desire for change was evident in the election results. She welcomed the introduction of a new era of collaborative local politics, aimed at better serving residents and safeguarding nature. While acknowledging the challenges imposed by central government restrictions, she affirmed their commitment to working diligently to improve Wealden for all.
The Cabinet committee will comprise four Liberal Democrat councillors and three Green Party councillors, each responsible for specific portfolios. These include Finance & Human Resources (held by Green Party councillor Greg Collins), Planning & Environment (led by Green Party’s Ian Tysh), Waste & Customer Services (taken over by Liberal Democrat Gareth Owen-Williams), Climate Change, Economy & Wellbeing (under Liberal Democrat Paul Coleshill), and Public Health & Asset Management (led by Liberal Democrat Kelvin Williams).
Furthermore, newly elected Green Party councillor Christina Coleman will assume the position of Wealden District Council chair, with Liberal Democrat councillor Gavin Blake-Coggins appointed as the deputy chair.
The appointments are expected to be officially ratified during a Full Council meeting scheduled for Wednesday, May 24, marking the formal establishment of the Alliance for Wealden and the commencement of their collaborative governance.