BREAKING: Labour and Lib Dem groups strike coalition deal to lead Cumbria County Council
CUMBRIA County Council is to be led by a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition for the next four years after a power-sharing deal was struck today.
It is understood the decision was taken during a crunch meeting of king making Liberal Democrat group members this morning.
It follows a week of dialogue between all three party groups that hold seats on the county authority as each attempted to form a coalition.
The proposed Labour/Lib Dem administration is now expected to propose Labour's Councillor Stewart Young is returned as council leader at CCC's annual general meeting on Thursday.
Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Ian Stewart is set to be proposed as CCC deputy leader.
If approved, the dual party agreement will govern the authority for the next four years.
Councillor Young said: "I'm delighted that the Lib Dems have decided to do that.
"It gives us a chance to carry on with the work that we have been doing over the last four years."
Cllr Ian Stewart, leader of the county's Lib Dem group, added: "The vote was taken this morning.
"We believe we have the right numbers in place for the annual general meeting next week when the leader and deputy leader will be proposed, as well as for the budget meeting in February."
However, Conservative opposition leader Cllr James Airey, whose party took the largest share of the vote at the polls, described the deal as a 'shoddy arrangement'.
He said: "I'm disappointed that the voters in Cumbria have been left with this when it was clearly not what they voted for.
"Cumbria still has some very tough decisions ahead of it, so I had proposed a rainbow coalition that excluded no-one.
"But this is disgraceful. It's a shoddy arrangement done to keep Stewart Young as leader at any cost."
The other positions set to be confirmed at the AGM, which was postponed in May until after the snap general election of June 8, are deputy leader, chairman and vice chairman.
Councillors from the coalition parties will also be appointed to the cabinet committee.
Halted committee meetings will also now be rescheduled to get underway as soon as possible.
Cumbria County Council has been run by a number of coalition administrations for the past 15 years.
From 2001, the authority was run by a Tory/Lib Dem alliance.
However this came to an abrupt end in 2008 following disagreements between Conservative leader Tim Stoddard and Lib Dem deputy Joan Stocker.
Between 2009 and 2013 the Conservatives and Labour groups held power.
And between 2013 until May this year, the council was run by a joint Labour/Lib Dem administration.
Following the local election six weeks ago the Conservatives are the largest single party in Cumbria with 37 seats.
Labour lost their former majority and were left with a reduced 26 seats, while the Liberal Democrats gained one seat to take their total to 16.
There are also five independent members.
The new power sharing agreement reached today gives Labour and Liberal Democrat groups a combined total of 42 votes in the 84 member chamber.