The leader of Derbyshire County Council’s Conservative opposition has claimed that the Tories’ chances of retaking the council have “perhaps never been greater” in his life.
Barry Lewis says he is confident that Derbyshire residents “are poised to send a loud and clear message” to Labour, when they go to the polls tomorrow.
The area has long been a Labour stronghold and a Conservative gain would represent a significant blow to the party, who are expected to perform badly across the country in local elections tomorrow, ahead of the general election in early June.
Labour currently hold 43 seats to the Conservatives’ 18 and Liberal Democrats’ 3. With 33 seats required for a majority, the Tories need to win 15 more seats to take overall control.
Councillor Lewis told JUS News: “Our chances of a convincing victory and retaking Derbyshire County Council from Labour have perhaps never been greater in my lifetime.
“Conservatives throughout Derbyshire have mounted an amazing campaign, demonstrating clear blue water between a strong Conservative Party, led by Theresa May and a Labour Party in disarray led by Jeremy Corbyn.”
He accused local Labour candidates of being “ineffective” because of Corbyn’s leadership and said they were standing on “confusing” policies which “could disunite Derbyshire.”
“We are also the only party that will give Chesterfield residents a referendum on the question of joining Sheffield City Combined Authority, and we would expect Chesterfield Borough Council to honour the result,” he added.
Labour’s Ann Westerne, who leads Derbyshire County Council, rejects councillor Lewis’ claims, suggesting there will not be “any significant shift” from the last local election.
She told JUS News: “Derbyshire Labour has been running a positive election campaign, showcasing what we’ve managed to achieve in spite of government funding cuts of £210m. This has been well received by the public and we are not sensing any significant shift in voting intentions from the last county elections in 2013.
“We have a strong track record on social care, safeguarding children, keeping all our libraries open and building new ones and we are being innovative and finding new ways to generate income locally, for example by establishing a development company to build much-needed housing on surplus council land and returning the profits to the council to fund services.”