UKIP loses control of Thanet council

Thanet council leader Chris Wells
Image caption UKIP councillor Chris Wells is the leader of Thanet council in Kent

UKIP has lost control of its only local authority after Thanet District Council voted for a new Conservative leader.

Last week Chris Wells resigned as council leader when 12 of UKIP's 25 councillors set up an independent group in a row over the Manston Airport site.

A meeting was held on Thursday for all councillors to elect a new leader.

The UKIP and Thanet Independent groups did not nominate anyone to stand for leader, so the vote was between the Conservatives and Labour.

Bob Bayford (Con) ran against Karen Constantine (Lab), and won by 23 votes to six.

The majority of UKIP councillors, including Mr Wells, did not turn up to the meeting to vote, while the Thanet Independents did not vote for anyone.

'Baying diehards'

In 2015 UKIP had been elected on a promise to return the Manston site to use as an airfield, but Mr Wells backed a plan which would see part of it used for housing.

In a statement issued after the vote, he said: "I wish my successor the best of luck. He will need it.

"He, like me, will have difficult decisions crafting a local plan which conforms to government and public expectations.

"He, like me, will have to face the future of the Manston Airport site.

"He, like me, will have to face the baying of the shrinking gallery of diehard airport supporters."

Analysis: Rajdeep Sandhu, BBC Radio Kent political reporter

It only took seven minutes to end UKIPs dominance in Thanet.

The meeting was swift with two candidates to choose from; Conservative group leader Bob Bayford or Labour's Karen Constantine.

There wasn't even a chance for speeches, to the annoyance of the Labour candidate.

The Independent group, which is mostly ex-UKIP turned up but didn't vote for anyone.

The result wasn't a shock as the Conservatives are the largest party, but they don't have an overall majority.

The new Conservative leader of the council Bob Bayford said there were difficult challenges ahead, but the party was up to it.

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