Uncertainty surrounds which party will control Crawley Borough Council
When it comes to elections, Crawley never does things by halves.
From electing an MP by just 37 votes in 2005 to numerous local wards being decided by a handful of votes over the years, the town rarely has a dull day at the ballot boxes.
On Friday, that tradition continued.
It was a good day at the office for the Conservatives, who took eight of the 14 seats being contested – but the council stayed in No Overall Control, with an 18-17 split in favour of the Tories, with one Independent.
So what happens next?
Well, technically, nothing changes until the annual council meeting on May 28 when councillors will find out which committees they will serve on and a new mayor and deputy mayor are named.
In reality, though, Conservative leader Duncan Crow and Labour leader Peter Lamb have been talking about the way forward and what agreements can be reached.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, they have shown as close to a united front as it’s possible to get from opposing sides of the political spectrum.
When two Labour councillors jumped ship and became Independents, the party found itself in the position of running the council while having fewer seats than the Tories.
Mr Crow said it would have been the ‘wrong time’ for the Conservatives to take over at that point, especially as the change did not happen via the ballot box.
But things are different now. He added: “Elections have now happened and the democratic mandate is there.”
As for Mr Lamb, he updated his blog on Saturday and pointed out that ‘realistically a leader who cannot deliver a majority on key votes in the chamber will either resign or face a confidence vote in which the council replaces them’.
If that is going to happen, annual council will be the day.
So it would be a huge surprise if Mr Crow is not named leader of the council.
Mr Lamb added: “I believe that a compromise which will deliver stability for the next year will be reached before the annual council, but at this stage I really don’t know what it will look like and ultimately it won’t be down to me to decide.
“However, based on conversations so far, it’s clear that everyone really wants to ensure an arrangement which will deliver the best for the town over the next year.”