Labour take charge of Rugby Borough Council having won vote to oust Conservatives

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Labour's seizure of power at Rugby Borough Council was confirmed on Wednesday – and without any political backlash.

The results of May's local elections, where a third of the borough's seats were up for grabs, only clouded already muddy waters with none of the three major parties close to commanding a majority – 22 or more seats – at the town hall.

The Conservatives had held power through a minority administration and despite the loss of three seats remained the largest party on 17.

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Labour won all three of those to move up to 15, a figure that gave them the clout to form a confidence and supply arrangement – a formal but non-binding agreement to vote together on big issues – with the Liberal Democrats who hold the other 10 seats.

Rugby Town HallRugby Town Hall
Rugby Town Hall

That led to a motion to oust incumbent leader Councillor Derek Poole (Con, Wolston & the Lawfords) who had held the post for a year after predecessor Seb Lowe lost his seat in May 2023.

Labour leader Councillor Michael Moran (Admirals & Cawston), who later got voted into the top job, insisted “it is not personal” but argued that the latest ballots justified change.

“May’s election results were clear with approximately 16,000 votes for either the Labour or Liberal Democrat manifesto, a figure representing some 60 per cent of the total votes cast,” he said.

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“The opening sentence of the Labour manifesto stated a need for a progressive vision for change, the Liberal Democrat manifesto was called ‘A Manifesto for Change’.

“After decades of Conservative rule in Rugby, it is time for a fresh start and a new approach.

“The motion is not about dwelling on the past, we are focused on the future. Therefore, I believe it is my duty to put (this) forward).”

Cllr Poole opted not to take a swing and kept it brief.

"I have led this council to the best of my ability for the past 12 months. I have led with dignity and I have led with pride," he said.

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Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Jerry Roodhouse (Paddox) thanked Cllr Poole and his deputy Councillor Ian Picker (Con, Hillmorton) for their service and showed empathy over “how hard it has been”.

Cllr Picker expressed gratitude to his political rival, adding: “It is a tough seat to sit in. We all want to do what is best for our residents and I think we all actually agree on a lot of the issues.

“Over the past year we have tried to set up a number of cross-party working groups to look at those long-term, strategic aspirations.

“It is my hope that the new administration will continue that work on a cross-party basis and if they do, we will continue to engage, but we do remain the largest party in this organisation and we will seek to represent the residents of Rugby to the best of our ability on all matters.”

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Councillor Ish Mistry (Lab, New Bilton) described Cllr Poole as a “real gentleman”, while Cllr Moran reflected on a situation that “wasn’t quite by anyone’s design” when Mr Lowe’s time in office ended.

“Anyone who puts themselves forward for public service is to be commended, so thank you,” said the new leader.

As civil as all of that was, the Conservative leadership led the call for a recorded vote on the motion – where each councillor states their vote individually rather than the result being determined by a show of hands.

Predictably, it went along party lines with no one breaking ranks. All 23 Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors present voted for the change of leadership with all 15 Conservatives voting against.