LIBERAL Democrats and Greens are set to seize control of the council which runs roads, schools and social care services in Oxfordshire.

When the result of the May 6 local election was counted last weekend, the county council – previously run by the Conservatives – was left with no overall controlling political party.

But negotiations are now taking place between the political parties to form a ruling coalition.

The Lib Dems and Greens are already on the verge of forming a joint group, which would make them the largest political grouping on the council with 24 seats, made up of the 21 Lib Dems and three Greens.

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Meanwhile, the Conservative group has 22 seats and Labour has 15, but a result in Banbury Ruscote which netted the Tories a gain is set to face a legal challenge from Labour.

Current Lib Dem group leader Richard Webber said his party was speaking to all of the others about a new coalition.

He said: “We think the public have spoken loud and clear that they don’t want the continuation of a Tory-independent administration which we have had for the last 10 years or so.

“Change is about and we need to respond to that.”

Mr Webber said the parties had been going through each other’s manifesto promises searching for ‘red lines’ which they would need to discuss.

The central promise of the Lib Dem manifesto was to put climate change at the heart of decision making if it ruled the council.

It also promised to invest in walking, cycling and rail; to ‘fight for integrated health and social care’ and to restore a county youth service.

Mr Webber said the Lib Dems and Greens had already agreed to form a group because they had worked closely during the elections, standing aside candidates for one another in certain divisions to avoid a split vote.

He added: “We are at the very least heading for a Green-Lib Dem alliance so that in the next couple of days we will have a party of 24, at which point there is no argument about who is the largest group at Oxfordshire County Council.”

Mr Webber also said one of the Lib Dems demands for being part of a ruling coalition would be that the party’s local leader would become the next leader of the council.

However this would not be Mr Webber, who plans to stand down from the role once a successor is chosen at a meeting on Saturday morning.

While the party has spoken to the Conservatives, the Labour group seems to be the more likely coalition partner.

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Liz Brighouse, who was re-elected as Labour’s council group leader this week, confirmed negotiations had begun and councillors were discussing what a coalition ‘might look like’.

She said that if the Labour party did become part of a ruling coalition on the county she would want it to begin with a ‘bang’.

Labour’s manifesto promises included a strong response to the climate crisis, investing more in cycling and walking, finding alternative ways to fund social care like bringing services into public control, and restoring a youth service.

Ms Brighouse added: “I really want to show people we can set up a system of governance that is about them and not about any political party, and certainly not about the Tories.”

In a series of unexpected results, the Tories saw the 31 seats they won at the 2017 election reduced to 22.

Labour took Chipping Norton from them, and the Lib Dems won in Woodstock, where their candidate Andy Graham unseated the former leader of the council, Ian Hudspeth in a shock victory.

The Conservatives have since selected Eddie Reeves, the councillor for Banbury Calthorpe ward, to succeed Mr Hudspeth as their new group leader.

The county council is due to hold its first full meeting of the new cohort of councillors on Tuesday, May 18.

By then it is hoped negotiations to create a new ruling group will be complete.

At the meeting, the council’s new leader and cabinet will be formally nominated.

The meeting will be the first to take place in person since the pandemic began, and will be held at Banbury’s Spiceball Leisure Centre.

It will be socially distanced in the huge sports hall, and will be live streamed for the public.