THE new leader of the Conservative Group at County Hall has written a letter to all non-Conservative councillors, inviting them to join a working majority.

Steve Hastings, councillor for Brighstone, Calbourne and Shalfleet, was elected as acting leader yesterday (May 8).

At the elections, the Island Conservatives lost their majority, losing five seats and leaving them with 18 of the 39 available.

Former leader Dave Stewart thanked council staff and party colleagues on Friday, after he lost his Chale, Niton and Shorwell seat.

Cllr Hastings has since written to all the non-Conservative councillors, asking if they would like to join the Conservatives to form a majority ahead of their annual meeting on May 26.

The letter reads as follows:

Firstly, congratulations on your election as an Isle of Wight Councillor on Thursday. I wish you well for the forthcoming council term. I look forward to working alongside you to serve the Island as a whole.

As you may have seen reported in the media, I have been elected as the acting leader of the Conservative Group.

This is an interim decision ahead of the Group’s scheduled Annual Meeting on Friday (14th May), when the Group will confirm my appointment and agree that I shall be nominated for the position of Leader at Annual Council on May 26.

However, I recognise that the Conservative Group does not have an overall majority, and therefore the route to forming an administration ­— to give County Hall the leadership it needs ­— is one which may require dialogue outside of our group.

I also consider that the outcome of the election causes us to look afresh at how we might best ensure that the views and input of members from all corners of the Island are taken into account in the Council’s decision-making.

It is a reasonably well-established convention in local government that, in a situation of “'no overall control', the largest group is given the first opportunity to form an administration.

In keeping with that convention, it is certainly our intention to take steps towards doing so over the coming days. Whilst we could proceed to the vote on May 26 and see what happens, my preference is to first explore with other councillors whether there is an appetite for an arrangement that would provide greater certainty in the short-term ­— as well as stability moving forwards.

To this end, I would like to invite you (either individually or in political groups) to contact me in the next 48 hours, with a view to exploring whether an arrangement for providing a working majority could be put in place.

I do not have a particular view on what form that might take, and I am aware of different models ranging from a formal coalition to a minority administration (supported by other members on an issue-by-issue basis). The latter may, of course, end up being what is in place after May 26.

However an administration is formed, I am determined that there is the opportunity for all members to make a meaningful contribution to the Council’s decision-making.

Within my own group, there will be healthy debate and every member will decide for themselves how to vote. And from outside of our group, I would value the input of other members who have experiences and insights which could be invaluable to the Council over the coming four years.

Whilst I remain committed to maintaining the executive (leader/cabinet) model of governance which the Council has operated under for the past 20 years, there is certainly the opportunity to expand how all councillors can contribute to both policy development and effective scrutiny.

I hope that this letter is received in the inclusive and open-minded spirit in which it is intended. I enjoy working with councillors of all political persuasions (and none) and welcome the opportunity to do so as a new group leader.

It is right that we seek to form an administration with a sufficient number of councillors, which would also allow other councillors (from outside of this grouping) to provide constructive opposition and effective scrutiny, holding us to account.

From my perspective, the scrutiny function is one which needs a strong chair ­— from outside of the administration ­— and I would also welcome suggestions with regard to how this could be taken forward.

If you are interested in discussing what I have outlined above ­— particularly with regard to how an administration could be formed ­— I would be grateful if you could contact me by midday on Tuesday, so that discussions can get underway.