THREE independents including a former Labour stalwart have agreed to support the Tory administration at County Hall.

The ruling Conservatives yesterday announced a deal with independent councillors Lynda Atkins, Mark Gray and former Labour councillor Les Sibley.

A pact was needed after the Tories were left one vote short of a majority after winning 31 of the 63 seats available in last Thursday’s Oxfordshire County Council elections.

Labour won 15 seats, the Lib Dems 11 and the Greens two, leading to four days of talks between parties in an attempt to form an administration.

The alliance means the independents will support the election of Tory leader Ian Hudspeth on Tuesday and add their weight to the party’s budgets for the next four years, but they will not sit in the cabinet.

Wallingford councillor Ms Atkins, who has become the leader of the newly-formed independent group, said despite the alliance they were not actually joining the Conservatives.

She said: “It’s not an administration, it’s not a coalition, we’re calling it an alliance.

“We’re not joining the Tories. I could never be a Tory, lovely people though they are.

“This is something which fits the current circumstances, something that will work right here and right now.

“We believe that what we have done is very much in the best interests of our constituents and all the other residents of Oxfordshire.

“I think we always have to go back to our voters and explain our decisions, and this will be no exception.

“But I think we would have to have a much more difficult conversation in a year’s time if we had let this council descend into chaos and party political bickering.”

Mr Hudspeth, who is expected to be re-elected as the leader of the council at Tuesday’s meeting, said he was pleased with the deal.

He said: “The main thing is the independents will remain independent to make their decisions but they will be supporting myself and the Conservative administration on Tuesday.

“Another main issue is the budget.”

He said he would work with all parties as his party tackled the “tough challenges” ahead of the council, with further cuts inevitable.

Councillors also said the idea of the alternative – a “rainbow coalition” of opposition parties – had encouraged them to strike a deal.

Council deputy leader Rodney Rose said: “I remember the rainbow councils of the 1990s and I never want to see that happen again.”

To win the support of the three councillors, the Tories have had to agree to let the chairmanship of the council alternate between them and the opposition.

They have also agreed that Conservatives won’t chair all five of the scrutiny committees, as they have since 2009, which review decisions made by the administration.

In return, the independents have agreed to a budget-setting process which involves them in negotiations.

In February, the Tories’ budget proposed £46m of extra cuts to services over the next four years.

Mr Gray, who was elected for the Benson and Cholsey division last week, said: “We’re just keen to ensure stability.”

Ms Atkins said that Neville Harris, the fourth independent on the council who won in Didcot West last week, had “chosen not to join the independent group”.

Last night Mr Harris was unavailable for comment.