Lib Dems take Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone is hung

Helen Grant MP at the Maidstone Borough Council count
Maidstone and the Weald MP Helen Grant (centre) said she had expected the results to be "difficult" [BBC]

The Liberal Democrats have taken control of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, gaining eight seats in Thursday's local elections.

They now have 22 seats, with the Conservatives on seven, and Labour and independents on five apiece.

No party has overall control of Maidstone Borough Council, with the Conservatives the largest party by a single seat.

The Lib Dems have 12, the Greens 10, independents eight and Labour six.

Tunbridge Wells had been under no overall control, with the council run by a Lib Dem-led coalition, after the Conservatives lost their majority in 2021.

Maidstone had been run by a minority Conservative administration, after the party lost its majority in 2023.

The 2024 result opens up the possibility of an alliance controlling the council.

Green Party leader Stuart Jeffery said he would "relish the opportunity" to lead Maidstone Borough Council, while the Liberal Democrats are also willing to work with other parties, according to their leader Clive English.

The former deputy leader of the council, Conservative Paul Cooper, lost his seat.

He said: "It's been a really bad day for us, certainly locally. We were expecting it to be bad, possibly it's worse than we had ever expected. I'm not sure there are any places we're doing well."

Speaking as counting got underway, Maidstone and the Weald's Conservative MP Helen Grant said she had expected the results to be "very difficult".

“The last time we went to the polls we were on a vaccine bounce so the bar was very, very high," she said.

“I’m very proud of our candidates and all they’ve done.”

Stuart Jeffery, leader of the Green Party in Maidstone
The leader of Maidstone's Greens, Stuart Jeffery, said he would relish the chance to lead the authority [BBC]

Boundary changes meant every seat in Maidstone was up for re-election for the first time in 20 years, with the authority previously electing members a third at a time.

The BBC understands there have already been coalition talks between the Lib Dems, Greens and Labour over the potential of taking over in Maidstone.

One seat had to be decided by drawing lots after two candidates received exactly the same number of votes.

Both were Green candidates for Maidstone's High Street Ward, with Donna Greenan winning the draw.

Election count at the Tunbridge Wells Assembly Hall
The Tunbridge Wells count is being held at the town's Assembly Hall [BBC]

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