NINETEEN days after voters went to the polls to elect a new conurbation council, a ‘Unity Alliance’ has taken power in a move almost unthinkable a few weeks ago.

A ‘bold and ambitious’ administration made up of the Liberal Democrats, the Christchurch Independents Group, Poole People’s Party, Labour, Greens and other independents is now at the helm of the £700m Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council.

The ruling alliance was elected at the first full council meeting at Bournemouth University on Tuesday night.

The alliance, led by Poole Liberal Democrat Cllr Vikki Slade, took 40 votes in the chamber against 32 for the Conservative candidate Cllr Bob Lawton in a secret ballot.

Cllr Slade becomes leader of the 12th largest local authority in England, formed in April by the merger of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole and she will form a ‘unity cabinet.’

She told the Echo afterwards. "I can hardly believe it. But we have a huge job to do and I just want to get on with it, starting right now. It has been amazing to bring people together like this."

The chairman of the authority is Cllr David Flagg, the former Conservative leader of Christchurch who stood in the elections under the new brand of Christchurch Independent. The deputy chairman is Labour’s George Farquhar.

The new administration is the result of nearly three weeks of intensive cross-party negotiations.

Bournemouth Echo:

Cllr Slade told the meeting: “We have united behind a set of principles and policies that will deliver first class services for everyone in BCP making sure no-one gets left behind.”

She said residents “deserve more of a say in what we do, they should expect to understand why we do things and they are entitled to the highest standards from all of us.”

The priorities will include harmonising services and council tax quickly and fairly, local planning and sovereignty, homelessness, housing and climate change, reflecting the range of alliance groups.

It also plans to make openness, transparency and accountability central to the council’s running and to ensure that “the unique identities of Christchurch, Poole and Bournemouth” are protected and enhanced.

The leader of the Christchurch Independents, Cllr Margaret Phipps, said: “Residents across the conurbation voted for change and that is exactly what we now have. This is a huge opportunity to bring back fairness to all areas in both finance and services.”

The outcome is a huge blow to the Conservatives who had anticipated being in charge of the new flagship council created out of the three Tory-controlled predecessor authorities.

But national events including Brexit and local anger about the merger, especially in Christchurch but in Poole too, made a big dent in Tory support at the elections.

Cabinet posts include Regeneration and Culture, Mark Howell (PPP), Strategic Planning, Margaret Phipps (CI), Housing, Kieran Wilson (Ind), Climate Change/Environment, Felicity Rice (ALL), Finance, David Brown (Lib Dem), Adult Social Care and Health, Lesley Dedman (CI), Children and Families, Sandra Moore (Lib Dem), Tourism, Leisure and Communities, Lewis Allison (Lab).