Thanet council has a new leader -marking the end of the UK’s only UKIP-led authority

TDC leader Bob Bayford

A new Thanet council leader has been elected by councillors – meaning the end of the country’s only UKIP-led  authority.

District councillors attended the vote despite icy roads and disruptions to public transport but there was a noticeable lack of UKIP Party councillors in the chamber with only Cllr Hunter Stummer-Schmertzing evident on the Cabinet bench. Former leader Chris Wells, who resigned last month, did not attend.

There was also a packed public bench with attendees including South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay.

Conservative Bob Bayford was voted in to the top spot at the emergency meeting tonight (March 1). He announced Cllr Jason Savage as his deputy.

Cllr Bayford and Labour’s Karen Constantine were the only two nominations for the leadership.

There was some dispute over the lack of opportunity for the nominated councillors to speak when the issue went straight to the vote.

The vote means Thanet is once again a Conservative council, albeit a minority administration.

Leader Cllr Bayford said: “We have got 14 months (until the 2019 district elections) and a significant minority. There are going to be difficult challenges but I think we are up to it.”

Craig Mackinlay

Mr Mackinlay said: “We have now got to work together to get things right. I wish Bob every success and we can really show the island we can have a better place. I think we can say the UKIP brand is pretty much at its end.”

He added that the Local Plan would be a priority and there would now be council backing for aviation-only use at the Manston airport site.

The Conservatives last had full control of Thanet council after district elections in 2007. In 2011 local elections failed to return a majority party. Conservatives clung on to control until December of that year when a party defection allowed Labour to take control, again as a minority leadership, until UKIP swept to power in 2015.

Since 2011 there have been three periods of no overall control. UKIP had the majority in 2015 but lost it the same year. It regained that majority in 2016 but lost it again last year after defections and resignations.

Chris Wells

The election follows the resignation of former leader Chris Wells after a UKIP Party split prompted by January’s vote on the Thanet Draft Local Plan.

The sticking point of the plan was the proposal to remove the aviation-only designation for the Manston airport site and instead earmark it for 2,500 homes.

An “11th hour” amendment to defer for two years the mixed-use designation for Manston airport pending the resolution of the DCO process was not enough to get the plan voted through to publication stage.

Twelve ‘rebel’ UKIP councillors aligned with the Tories to vote down the plan.

Cllr Stuart Piper

The 12 – led by Cllr Stuart Piper – then quit Thanet’s UKIP group to serve as UKIP Independents and last week ditched the UKIP tag altogether .

The 12, plus Independent councillors Suzanne Brimm and Alan Howes, formed the Thanet Independent Councillors group.

The alliance put ‘official UKIP’  as the third largest party on Thanet council with 13 members, behind TIC with 14 members and Conservatives with 21 councillors. Labour has 6 members and there are two other Independents.

UKIP – A path from victory to implosion

The resignation signalled the beginning of the end of the country’s first UKIP council, elected in a landslide victory in 2015.

The party won 33 of the 56 seats. But the group has since suffered defections and resignations.

Konnor Collins and Helen Smith

In 2015 Beverley Martin, Ash Ashbee and now-disgraced former councillors Konnor Collins and Helen Smith, who were later arrested on theft charges, set up the Democratic Independent Group in protest at a lack of action on Manston airport. They were then joined by Cllr Jeff Elenor, who later resigned his seat because he moved out of the area.

Cllr Martin later returned to the UKIP fold.  Cllr Ashbee joined the Conservatives. Cllr Emma Dawson crossed to the Conservatives in 2015 and Cllr Peter Evans followed in 2017.

UKIP regained the majority when the party took back the Northwood seats in a by-election following the resignation of Mr Collins and Ms Smith in 2016.

Cllr Bev Martin

The Party then lost its majority again last July when Cllr Beverly Martin defected, this time to the Tories. Its sway was further reduced when the Margate by-election in August returned Labour’s Ian Venables to the seat.

Councillors Suzanne Brimm and Alan Howes

That same month Birchington ward councillors Suzanne Brimm and Alan Howes announced they were quitting the party to serve as Independents.

Last month the Thanet  Independent UKIP Group was formed by the 12 UKIP members who voted down the Local Plan.

The group became Thanet Independent Councillors, ditching the UKIP label altogether, last week. There are now just 13 UKIP councillors at TDC


  1. hi just wondering when we will start to have lefets about the local elections 2018 as i live in the ward of cliffsand and pegwell bay area.

  2. Now that Bob Bayford and his team are in office I confidently expect to see 4 CPOs undertaken before the weekend and planes flying again on Monday.

    • First planes Thursday now due to bad weather that none of Thanet councillors booked or arranged. Lol

  3. Ha ha, what a shambles this council is. Musical chairs it reminds me off with one being pulled out from underneath them so they are forced to go ! It will make no difference who is in charge though as they are all Tories at heart so Thanet is doomed and blighted. Those people only want one thing but there are so many important issues that need dealing with in Thanet. Homelessness for one, it’s on the rise with this Tory Government’s cuts and austerity forced upon us, and long time Thanet residents are being sent out of the area as our council has no housing to house them here. We need more affordable homes here in Thanet but the new authority in charge at TDC are also Tories so I can’t see this happening anytime soon. But they are all right snuggled up in their posh, warm homes this winter, they don’t care !

  4. So Tory 1st team take over from their right wing ukip/tories reserve team , different colours same austerity

  5. So now it is the Tories turn to see what they can do about Manston. If the public are expecting planes to be flying soon, I suspect they may be disappointed. Unless Bob has a trick up his sleeve. This also points to Labour domination in the 2019 elections.

  6. Is this what the Reverend Piper and his band of UKIP rebels intended when they scuppered the local plan? Is this what people wanted when they voted UKIP? Handing control of the council to the Conservatives? If so, it’s a bit of a weird objective as Mr. Bayford has made no specific commitment to reopen the airport or to use public money to fight the legal owners of the site. He’s got a couple of plane-spotters in his party but can afford to ignore their silly ranting as Labour and UKIP will support him in waving SHP’s plans through. It seems to me the ex-UKIP rebels have handed control of the council to the Tories and have gained nothing in exchange, least of all any assurance that their dream of an airport will be kept alive. Surely they have to be the most inept bunch of councillors Thanet has ever managed to elect.


  8. WHAT DO YOU WANT ON THE MANSTON AIRPORT SITE? Re-open as cargo airport or Housing estate or an Academy Complex & Arena with Heliport.
    We have reason to believe the Triple A Multimedia Groups Academy proposal for Manston lodged with TDC is welcomed by local business and would serve to provide the solution to the local populations division of opinion between housing and a cargo airport and regenerate Thanet into the future.

    • It is not clear why those wanting housing and those wanting an Airport are going to be satisfied with a Media Academy.

      Incidentally, staff and students will need to be accommodated, will this be on site.

    • Are you serious? A school with a heliport?

      Don’t forget, the site is already owned by SHP who have a mixed-use plan for it. Over 2000 houses/flats can be built on this large brownfield site,or they could be built on greenfield sites. Which would be preferable?

  9. You couldn’t write it. Having helped to destroy the local plan because it contained plans for housing n the Manston site, Bob Bayford is now saying that it will be developed for housing if the DCO fails. So, why didn’t he agree to the 2 year moratorium on development which was put forward by the council’s officers? It looks like the local plan has been scuppered for no good reason.

  10. If UKIP, with the exception of Chris Wells all supported the Manston Airport as well as the Conservatives…….then wouldn’t it make sense to join together to push what a lot voters wanted…….also UKIP particularly used as a priority aim locally.
    Keep all your Councillers……..and DEMAND that they work together for the benefit of Thanet and it’s residents.
    It is important that “Collrs” should have been born or lived in Thanet for at least 10years…….with a vested interest in there area.

    • It matters not what “a lot of voters wanted” … not that anyone knows … Manston is in the wrong place. All the experts say that commercial aviation at Manston will fail. No experts say it will work. So: what’s Plan B?

    • A vested interest is the last thing they should have. We have already seen how difficult it is for several of our current councils to be impartial in making what should be evidence-based judgments.

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