Are the Tories or Lib Dems calling the shots in Harrogate and Knaresborough?


Last updated May 14, 2022
Tories and Lib Dems
(clockwise, from top left) Pat Marsh, Paul Haslam, Richard Cooper and Matt Walker

The Liberal Democrats whooped with joy; the Conservative slunk quietly out the door.

To anyone at last week’s election count in Harrogate, it seemed like the Lib Dems had swept to power.

The result appeared to reinforce this, with 10 Lib Dems elected in the Harrogate district compared with nine Tories, one Green and one Independent.

Lib Dems

The Lib Dems celebrate at the count.

But at a council meeting on Wednesday, Conservative Carl Les is set to be named leader of the Conservative-controlled North Yorkshire County Council.

Across the county as a whole, the Conservatives won 47 of the 90 seats, meaning they have a majority of three and — by-elections and defections permitting — will hold power for the remaining year of the county council’s life and for the following first four years of North Yorkshire Council’s existence.

But things are not quite that simple.

The Lib Dems took control of the Harrogate and Knaresborough Area Constituency Committee, which is one of six area committees on North Yorkshire County Council that scrutinise the impact of policy decisions on local areas.

There is also the prospect of the Lib Dems repeating their success in elections for a new Harrogate town council if, as expected, one is formed to replace Harrogate Borough Council, which will be swallowed up in 10 months by North Yorkshire Council.

Lib Dems ‘will be able to influence things more’

David Goode, who was the sole Lib Dem on the area constituency committee before the election, said his goal had been to secure seven councillors in Harrogate and Knaresborough to assume control of the 13-person committee. Eight were elected.

David Goode

David Goode

Matt Walker, who won the Knaresborough West division, said:

“We had a plan and we exceeded that. We planned to take control of the area committee so we can get some proper representation in the district. It means we will be able to influence things more.”

Area constituency committees, however, currently have few powers and are often described as little more than talking shops.

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But their powers could be beefed-up under North Yorkshire Council.

Double devolution

Cllr Les pledged to pursue a policy of “double devolution” in the run-up to the elections by handing down some powers, including to the area committees.

Carl Les

Speaking after the vote, he said:

“We are still committed to double devolution. I think it would be dishonest of us to renege on that principle.

“We will continue to work on delivering it.”

But what powers will the new area committees have?

Pat Marsh, the Lib Dem leader on Harrogate Borough Council, said she believed they could include key issues such as planning and highways, and include some funding. She asked:

“if the area committees don’t have power over planning, how will the new council be able to manage the volume of planning applications across the county?”

Conservative Graham Swift, perhaps the highest profile scalp taken by the Lib Dems at the election, used his speech after his result was announced to remind everyone the Conservatives had secured an overall majority — and still held the levers to power.

Graham Swift’s speech at the count.

Paul Haslam, whose large majority in Bilton and Nidd Gorge was one of the few local Conservative highlights, told the Stray Ferret

“It’s about consensus and working with people. I’m quite relaxed about it. The Lib Dems are passionate about our local area, just as much as myself and my fellow Conservatives. I’m willing to work with anyone.”

Harrogate town council

Harrogate and Scarborough are currently the only towns in North Yorkshire without town councils, and their loss of district councils seems likely to precipitate the creation of them.

But town councils usually have no greater powers than parish councils. If North Yorkshire Council ends up making key decisions on Harrogate Convention Centre and the Stray, people in Harrogate could end up railing against policymakers in Northallerton just as many people in Ripon do now about policymakers in Harrogate.

Richard Cooper, the leader of Harrogate Borough Council, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the Conservatives’ poor showing in the Harrogate district was largely down to voters sending a message to Prime Minister Boris Johnson rather than local issues.

Zombie council

But with Cllr Cooper not seeking re-election, last week’s result marked a sea change in the local Conservative landscape.

His departure and the defeats of key allies such as Graham Swift, Matt Scott, Phil Ireland and Tim Myatt mean there will be a changing of the old guard that has dominated for so long.

Harrogate Borough Council offices at Knapping Mount.

Harrogate Borough Council

With abolition looming in 10 months time, Harrogate Borough Council faces the prospect of becoming a zombie council with power ebbing away by the day.

But the new landscape — and to what extent the opposition Lib Dems will be influencing it — remains to be seen.

Harrogate district election results

Bilton and Nidd Gorge

Paul Haslam, Conservatives – WON with 1,017 votes
Andrew Kempston-Parkes, Liberal Democrats – 663
Deborah Havercroft, Labour Party – 285

Bilton Grange and New Park

Monika Slater, Liberal Democrats – WON with 968 votes
Matthew Scott, Conservatives – 677
Andrew Zigmond, Labour Party – 159
Tamsin Worrall, Green Party – 123

Boroughbridge and Claro

Robert Windass, Conservatives – WON with 936 votes
Jon Starkey, Independent – 486
Andy Bell, Liberal Democrats – 433
Clark Pearson, Green Party – 169
Noel Evans, Independent – 96

Coppice Valley and Duchy

Peter Lacey, Liberal Democrats – WON with 940 votes
Graham Swift, Conservatives – 739
Daniel Thompson, Independent – 199
Patricia Foxall, Labour Party – 126
Leighton Regayre, Green Party – 84

Fairfax and Starbeck

Philip Broadbank, Liberal Democrats – WON with 921 votes
Sue Lumby, Conservatives – 442
Christopher Watt, Labour Party – 337
Gordon Schallmo, Green Party – 103

Harlow and St Georges

Mike Schofield, Liberal Democrats – WON with 1,245 votes
Steven Jackson, Conservatives – 805
Sarah Hart, Independent – 345
John Adams, Labour Party – 169
Andrew Rickard, Green Party – 149

High Harrogate and Kingsley

Chris Aldred, Liberal Democrats – WON with 1,019 votes
Tim Myatt, Conservatives – 760
Geoffrey Foxall, Labour Party – 263

Killinghall, Hampsthwaite and Saltergate

Michael Harrison, Conservatives – WON with 1,016 votes
David Goode, Liberal Democrats – 465
Edward Clayson, Labour Party – 251
Bill Rigby, Green Party – 124

Knaresborough East

Hannah Gostlow, Liberal Democrats – WON with 1,169 votes
Ed Darling, Conservatives – 767
Sharon-Theresa Calvert, Labour Party – 276

Knaresborough West

Matt Walker, Liberal Democrats – WON with 1,316 votes
Phil Ireland, Conservatives – 988
David Tom Crosthwaite, Labour Party – 328

Masham and Fountains

Margaret Atkinson, Conservatives – WON with 1,076 votes
Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, Independent – 738
Judith Hooper, Liberal Democrats – 620

Oatlands and Pannal

John Mann, Conservatives – WON with 1,175 votes
Justin Chan, Liberal Democrats – 820
Gillian Charters, Green Party – 266
Margaret Smith, Labour Party – 250


Arnold Warneken, Green Party – WON with 1,328 votes
Richard Musgrave, Conservatives – 586

Pateley Bridge and Nidderdale

Andrew Murday, Liberal Democrats – WON with 1,002 votes
Stanley Lumley, Conservatives – 807
Alison Harris, Yorkshire Party – 65

Ripon Minster and Moorside

Andrew Williams, Independent – WON with 1,453 votes
Tom Cavell-Taylor, Liberal Democrats – 334
Thomas James Averre, Conservatives – 312

Ripon Ure Bank and Spa

Barbara Brodigan, Liberal Democrats – WON with 985 votes
Sid Hawke, Independent – 734
Mike Chambers, Conservatives – 556
Robin Burgess, Green Party – 151

Spofforth with Lower Wharfedale and Tockwith

Andy Paraskos, Conservatives – WON with 929 votes
Alexandra Marsh, Green Party – 630
John Hall, Yorkshire Party – 158

Stray, Woodlands and Hookstone

Pat Marsh, Liberal Democrats – WON with 1,350 votes
John Ennis, Conservatives – 910
Helen Burke, Labour Party – 189
Anna McIntee, Independent – 167

Valley Gardens and Central Harrogate

Sam Gibbs, Conservatives – WON with 871 votes
David Johnson, Liberal Democrats – 545
Andrew Williamson, Labour Party – 275
Lucy Jayne Gardiner, Independent – 331
Paul Ferrigno, Green Party – 162

Washburn and Birstwith

Nathan Hull, Conservatives – WON with 891 votes
Tom Watson, Liberal Democrats – 713
Paul Trewhitt, Green Party – 201
Ian Galloway, Independent – 162

Wathvale and Bishop Monkton

Nick Brown, Conservatives – WON with 1,334 votes
Chris Knight, Liberal Democrats – 559
Hannah Katherine Corlett, Green Party – 455



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The Liberal Democrats whooped with joy; the Conservative slunk quietly out the door. But who holds political power in the Harrogate district?

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