We had had three choices: support the Conservatives or the Residents on a confidence and supply basis; join a coalition with the Residents (there was not an offer of a coalition from the Conservatives); or, remain separate from both.
The Liberal Democrats had, in 2015, come out of a coalition nationally and had suffered for it – despite our believing that in 2010 a coalition was the best option for the country.
The residents group was and is already a coalition so our joining it meant a coalition of a coalition. But unlike the national coalition, in Elmbridge the Liberal Democrats were the largest party in the coalition.
At that time, there was much criticism, as well as speculation, that the new coalition would be short-lived and unable to achieve any significant changes to the borough but we in the Liberal Democrat felt it was the appropriate course of action for the smooth running of the borough.
We wanted to improve the planning enforcement function, begin a serious housing programme, move the car park policy from a money-making to a service basis and put the local plan process onto a firm footing – all this was achieved whilst maintaining our council tax below general local inflation and maintaining our financial reserves.
We met all of our targets and more but there is still more to do. This was the first Liberal Democrat coalition in the borough’s history. On our way to running Elmbridge by ourselves – in the not too distant future – we plan to work with councillors of all parties and of none to ensure the borough is well run and that Elmbridge remains the best place to live in England.