Cherwell District Council election: Conservatives cling to power with a majority of just two after losing five seats

Leader Barry Wood admits Cherwell District Council could look to “tweak policies” in response

By Andy Mitchell, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 6th May 2022, 6:21 pm
Updated Friday, 13th May 2022, 11:52 am
The Tories lost five seats – three to the Liberal Democrats, who also took a post vacated by a Conservative, one to Labour and one to the Green Party – in results that reflected the tough time the party endured in West Oxfordshire overnight.
The Tories lost five seats – three to the Liberal Democrats, who also took a post vacated by a Conservative, one to Labour and one to the Green Party – in results that reflected the tough time the party endured in West Oxfordshire overnight.

Leader Barry Wood admits Cherwell District Council could look to “tweak policies” in response to the Conservatives clinging to power with a majority of just two.

The Tories lost five seats – three to the Liberal Democrats, who also took a post vacated by a Conservative, one to Labour and one to the Green Party – in results that reflected the tough time the party endured in West Oxfordshire overnight.

It means the Conservatives have gone from being one seat short of a two-thirds majority on the council to having the most slender of buffers, holding 25 seats on the 48-strong authority.

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The count for Cherwell District Council elections was held at Spiceball Leisure Centre (photo from Cherwell District Council Tweet)

There was never any real risk of the balance tipping with strong Tory performances in the other six seats that they did hold but while Cllr Wood, who comfortably defended his Fringford & Heyfords berth, seemed unflustered, he indicated there would be a pause for thought.

“The horrible truth about this business is that you lose good people through no fault of their own,” he said.

“They don’t lose elections because they are duffers, they lose because the wind changes. We have a good set of councillors, we now need to wait and hope that the wind changes back the other way.

“There is a subset here about listening to people and making sure we are not living in some sort of ivory tower, making sure we are in touch with what our local residents want. We will be double checking on all of that.

“I think we are (in touch) but it doesn’t mean you can’t check, making sure you have the same priorities as the electorate. We have put some energy into that.

“I don’t think it will be business as usual exactly, it never is to be honest.

"Any organisation should look to continuously refresh and improve. We certainly always do that but I think there is a prospect that we will look to tweak policies, double checking that we are on the right track with the people we represent.”

He added that the focus remained on “providing good quality, efficient services for the people of this district” without hiking taxes, stating his belief that the Tories could not allow themselves to be “blown off course”.

Two high-profile Tory scalps were Tony Ilott, Cherwell's lead member for finance and governance, and district stalwart David Hughes.

Eddie Reeves, leader of the opposition at Oxfordshire County Council and Conservative colleague Donna Ford came in to successfully defend Deddington and Bicester East, respectively.

Labour newcomer Chuk Okeke, who is understood to be the first black, Asian and minority ethnic candidate to claim a seat in Cherwell, successfully held Banbury Cross & Neithrop, while Liberal Democrats David Hingley (Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote) and Chris Pruden (Bicester South & Ambrosden) overturned Tory seats with massive majorities of 899 and 750 votes, respectively.

Labour now hold 10 seats (+1), the Liberal Democrats seven (+4) and the Green Party two (+1). John Broad won his seat again to ensure there remain four independent members.