THE leader of Woking Borough Council’s Liberal Democrats has hailed last week’s landslide victory in the local elections as “a clear mandate for change”.

As she surveyed a council under majority Lib Dem control for the first time in almost 25 years, group leader Cllr Ann-Marie Barker said: “This is a once in a generation political shift, and a clear mandate for change.

“Woking borough faces a number of immediate challenges that demand urgent attention, from the dire state of Woking’s finances to the need for a clear development masterplan, a responsibility to the broader climate emergency, and the very real and local effects of the national cost-of-living crisis.

“In the coming weeks, I will confirm an administration that will take on these immense local challenges with energy and urgency.

“Woking has voted for change – and we will drive that change through.”

The Lib Dems now have 16 of the borough’s 30 councillors, enabling the first majority Lib Dem administration in Woking borough since 1998.

They held three seats, Hoe Valley, Mount Hermon and St John’s, and gained four from the Conservatives – Goldsworth Park, Heathlands, Pyrford and Horsell.

A miserable day for the Conservatives was rounded off by Independent candidate Dr Hassan Akberali taking Knaphill, completing the loss of all five seats they contested.

The council is now made up of the 16 Lib Dem councillors, eight Conservatives, three Independents and three Labour.

Cllr Barker will be nominated by the Lib Dem group as the new leader of Woking Borough Council at the next formal business meeting of full council, set for Monday 23 May.

Cllr Will Forster has been elected as deputy leader of the Lib Dems and is expected to take the role of deputy leader of the council.

Conservative group leader Ayesha Azad admitted the election results had been disappointing, but was soon back in the political fray.

“The Lib Dems have offered no vision for Woking whatsoever,” she said. “Their three stated objectives were begun under my administration, so I’m delighted they are continuing the objectives I set out – whether that’s the town centre master plan, resident engagement or the excellent climate change work the Conservatives began many years ago.

“They will, of course, have our support for these.”

The Independents were also celebrating at the expense of the Conservatives. They held the Byfleet and West Byfleet seat vacated by Mary Bridgeman with Daryl Jordan’s wide-margin success, and added Knaphill.

Amanda Boote, also an Independent councillor for Byfleet and West Byfleet, said: “We will now be declaring the Independent group as a formal party and I very much look forward to working with Daryl and Hassan to make a difference in Knaphill and to continue the work that we started in 2013 in Byfleet and West Byfleet.

“We will work closely with the Liberal Democrat and Labour groups to effect much-needed focus on the very concerning financial situation in the borough and to help to protect our green belt.

“My personal key focus will be to ensure that we successfully build the Sanway Flood Alleviation Scheme in Byfleet, a project that I started in 2013.

“Across the country the Independent movement is growing as people realise that local people are best placed to make local change, without politics getting in the way.”

The Labour group, who held their one seat, were asked for their reaction to the results but no response had been received at the time of going to press.

See the 12 May edition of the News & Mail for full local election results – in shops now!