By Eric Baxter & Paul John Coulter

COALITION chaos looms for Inverclyde Council after yesterday’s dramatic election results produced no clear winner.

Twenty-two seats were up for grabs, with Labour coming out on top on eight, followed by the SNP on seven.

The Tories now have two – their highest ever total on Inverclyde Council – while the Liberal Democrats slumped to only one, their lowest ever.

The remaining four seats went to independents – two in Gourock and one each in Greenock and Port Glasgow – the highest number ever in Inverclyde.

The first result for ward one was announced by returning officer Aubrey Fawcett at 10.50am at the Waterfront Leisure Centre, but the overall outcome was still in doubt until the last result for ward seven was declared at 1.47pm.

Labour ran the previous council as a minority administration, and this time fielded only nine candidates, while the SNP had 12 and were regarded as clear favourites to have the most councillors.

But only one Labour candidate failed to get a seat, and that was enough to put them in the driving position to form the next administration.

That, however, will be complicated.

Speaking to the Tele exclusively after the count, the four group leaders gave their views on a coalition.

Labour’s Stephen McCabe said he would not go into coalition with the SNP or Tories.

The SNP’s Chris McEleny firmly ruled out a coalition with the Tories, but not with anyone else.

Tory leader David Wilson said he would ‘not fall over himself’ to go into coalition with anyone and Liberal Democrat Ciano Rebecchi said he would definitely not join any coalition.

Meetings will be held over the next few days to try to form an arrangement to run the council.

Councillor McCabe said there would have to be a coalition to bring stability.

He said: “There will have to be agreements with parties who are not even part of that coalition to have stability, because we want to have an administration that lasts five years and not six months.

“There may be things in different parties’ manifestos that you can agree a policy platform on. It will be challenging in the days and weeks to come to try and form an administration, but we will certainly be looking to take the opportunity to try and be the lead party in an administration.”

He added: “We’re prepared to have discussions with the SNP about their policy platforms and be inclusive. For example, we would be encouraging them to return to the budget working group that they withdrew from.

“We’re keen to work with the SNP and for them to have a constructive and meaningful role in the council, but a coalition would be a step too far.”

Councillor McEleny said his party won more first preference votes than anyone else, but it wasn’t enough to get the most councillors.
He said: “Unfortunately, we never got the number of voters who have been voting SNP in the past to come out again in this election.

“We never managed to raise the profile of how important local government is to people.

“The Labour party’s vote held up, but we never got that new younger generation of voters to come out.

“It was a massive task for anyone to get 12 seats to form the administration.

“Labour now have the absolute right to go and try to form an administration, but we will not work with any coalition that involves the Tories.”

Tory leader David Wilson, who did a deal with Labour to become Depute Provost under the previous council, said any coalition was entirely up to the other parties.

He said: “I’m sitting with two members of my group. I have a strong role to play, but I’m not going to force myself into a coalition. I wouldn’t fall over myself to go into a coalition with Labour.”

And LibDem Ciano Rebecchi, who was first elected in 1988 and is a former Provost, said he would work with anyone for the good of Inverclyde but would not join a coalition.

He said: “All the parties have to work together to bring jobs and businesses to Inverclyde, and to preserve services at Inverclyde Royal Hospital.”