Power over Cumbria was settled in 'backroom deal', politician claims
CONTROL of Cumbria's largest authority was agreed in secret in a backroom deal weeks ago, a county politician claims.
On Friday it was announced that Labour and the Liberal Democrats had forged a coalition to lead Cumbria County Council for the next four years.
But Conservative opposition leader James Airey branded the move a disgrace as he claimed the alliance had been forged behind closed doors soon after the May 4 election result.
His claims were rubbished by the Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Ian Stewart.
Cllr Airey said: "I'm convinced this deal between Labour and the Lib Dems was done weeks ago.
"I felt the talks had gone well this week.
"I genuinely wanted to form a rainbow administration with no-one excluded from the table.
"But I was wasting my time. This is a shoddy arrangement to keep Stewart Young in as leader at any cost. It's not what the people of Cumbria wanted or voted for on May 4."
Official talks got underway on Monday with separate meetings held throughout the week between the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats.
With neither the Tories - the largest single party in Cumbria with 37 seats - nor Labour with 26 seats, able to form a majority administration on their own, the Lib Dem group became king makers with their sought after 16 seats.
A Labour/Lib Dem coalition was announced on Friday morning.
"It's going to be a rocky road ahead," Cllr Airey said.
"But we will be doing all we can to stop these things in the council chamber."
But Cllr Stewart responded by branding Cllr Airey's claims as 'rubbish'.
Cllr Stewart said: "To suggest that there was a secret deal is a flight of fancy on James' behalf.
"We held meetings with both the Conservative and Labour groups this week, we asked the same questions and raised the same points.
"I believe James is disappointed at not being able to conclude a deal with the Liberal Democrat group."
Cllr Young declined to comment on the matter.