WINCHESTER’S new civic chiefs say they will carry out an urgent review of the city’s major projects – including the new £38million leisure centre – after taking control in last week’s local elections.

Last Thursday voters turned to back the Liberal Democrats, who have been in opposition for nine years.

It was a shock result, the ruling Conservatives suffered heavy loses as five of their councillors were booted out, including senior Tory Guy Ashton, the finance portfolio holder.

Now, Cllr Lucille Thompson, the Lib Dem group leader who is expected to take control of the council when its cabinet is announced, has set an urgent review of the council’s major schemes to begin this week.

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In opposition, the Lib Dems have been highly critical of the decision of the Conservatives, most notable the move to reduce the leisure centre’s sports hall in size from 12 courts to eight.

Cllr Thompson said: “I am absolutely delighted with the result we achieved last Thursday. It was more than we had expected and now gives us a real opportunity to press ahead with our manifesto promises.

“We want to put the environment at the top of the council’s agenda and we have set ourselves some challenging objectives. We want to run the council in an open and transparent way ensuring that residents views are heard and that they get a proper say on how services are run.

“We will be having an urgent review of all the major projects to see what options are available to us. I am kicking that process off this week.”

Speaking on the night, Cllr Thompson denied the result was due to national frustrations. She said: “I’m not putting this down to Brexit. I know a lot of people are saying the Conservatives face backlash over the whole situation in Westminster.

“The truth is, we have very much campaigned hard.”

Meanwhile, Cllr Kim Gottlieb, a former Conservative who beat Guy Ashton to take the St Michael ward by a surprisingly large majority, added: “Although the shambles in Westminster clearly had a bearing on the local election, voters across the district recognised that it was more than matched by a shambolic Conservative administration in Winchester.

“In the city ward of St Michael, my history with Silver Hill also clearly had a bearing, with almost universal support for a regeneration of the site along lines I have frequently proposed, and the idea of creating a ‘beating heart’ for the city.

“Voters were also unimpressed by the Conservatives’ inexplicable decision to reduce the size of the sports hall at Bar End, and by their efforts to stymie change by rushing things through before the election. There is much to consider urgently, but we will make every effort to improve this important facility.”

Cllr Gottlieb will provide an dilemma for the Lib Dem administration when choosing their cabinet. Due to his links to Silver Hill scheme, now known as Saxon Gate, he is a high profile figure for the party. However, his recent bid to sell the St Clements surgery to the city council would create problems when it comes to making future decisions on the scheme.

As previously reported, Cllr Gottlieb was instrumental in scuppering the original project and a second attempt to regenerate the city centre is currently under way.

Among the other big names to lose their seats on Winchester City Council last week were environment portfolio holder Jan Warwick and former mayor and long-serving councillor Eileen Berry.

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Speaking at the election count, Ms Berry said: “I’ve come to an end of a wonderful service here. I would like to thank everyone who supported me.”

Lib Dem Mike Craske, who took the seat from Ms Berry in the shock St Barnabas ward result, said: “I’m somewhat surprised, but I was also confident at the same time. The degree of support has struck me, and I may be new to politics, but I have been working with a great team.”

Former council leader Caroline Horrill, who keep her seat in the Wonston and Micheldever ward added: “We need to regroup and hold the Lib Dems to account. We will come back and appeal to the people of Winchester.

“It will be interesting to see what happens under the new leadership. The Lib Dems were constantly opposing us, so I wonder what will happen.”

Cllr Horrill specifically questioned how the new leaders would deal with the leisure centre project which is now underway in Bar End, pointing out how the Lib Dems “consistently opposed” the plans.

Away from the main parties, the vote saw a good result for the Green Party who knocked Labour into fourth place in all the wards they were both fielding a candidate in, except for St Luke ward, covering Stanmore.

The political make-up of Winchester City Council now consists of 18 seats for the Conservatives, and 27 seats for the Lib Dems.

A total of 40,317 votes were cast, with a turnout of 45.1 per cent.