The new make-up of Richmond Council will be formalised at a full meeting tonight, with the Liberal Democrats resoundingly back in charge following the recent borough elections, the beaten Conservatives in opposition and the interesting prospect of four Green Party councillors trying to make their mark.
With a majority of 24 to buttress him, leader-to-be Gareth Roberts has already made his nominations for his nine-person cabinet. They include Liz Jaeger (deputy leader, housing and community safety), Alex Ehmann (deputy leader, transport, “streetscene” and air quality), Piers Allen (adult social care and health), Penny Frost (children’s services and schools) and Geoff Acton (business, economy and employment).
All are fellow Lib Dems. The electoral agreement the local party made with local Greens for campaigning purposes – which seems to have worked very well – had no follow-on in terms of guarantees of Green cabinet places. However, the four Green councillors – their group leader Richard Bennett, his deputy Andrée Frieze, Monica Saunders and Dylan Baxendale – are members of important committees, through which they will hope to be critical friends of the new administration.
Both Bennett and Frieze are to be members of the busy planning committee, with the former also scrutinising business and economy policy and the latter, the council’s performance in children’s services. Saunders will be on the case with adult social care, with Baxendale covering transport and streetscene and taking a particular interest in Heathrow.
Frieze, with engaging candour, says she and her colleagues were “shocked” to be elected the first ever Green councillors in Richmond but are also “delighted” about it. They intend to persuade their erstwhile Lib Dem allies to implement policy in the greenest ways possible, and hope that the productive electoral relationship will continue to produce results to their liking. She is encouraged by the Lib Dem pledge to speed up implementation of a 20 mph speed limit and to look again at the Twickenham Riverside regeneration project with a view to reducing car parking space.
Gareth Roberts has promised a “fresh start” for Richmond upon Thames through a council that is “engaging, open and innovative” and “puts real and meaningful dialogue with local people at the heart of all its decisions”. Sounds pretty Green-friendly. Will things turn out that way? Definitely a borough worth watching.