Havering’s three main political parties are “in discussions” about a coalition after the local election resulted in no decisive victory.
The council remained under “no overall control” following the vote on May 5, which saw the Conservatives, Havering Residents Association (HRA) and Labour emerge as the three biggest parties.
As none of the groups managed to win the 28 seats needed for a majority, talks are now underway over a possible power-sharing arrangement.
So far, the Conservatives and HRA are confirmed as having won 20 seats each, Labour won nine seats and three seats were won by independent Harold Wood councillors.
The final results will not be declared until this evening (Monday May 9) at the earliest, due to a recount of votes in Rainham and Wennington ward.
Labour group leader Keith Darvill confirmed he has been approached by both the Conservatives and HRA about forming a joint administration
He added: “It’s understandable that we would be approached by both groups, we have had discussions with them because I don’t think we can stand by and vote against everything and have nothing get done.
“It’s important that the council is run properly and can deal with the challenges that it has.
“Some are talking about a form of vote-supply arrangement whereby we’re involved at a policy development level and effectively can say whether we are happy to vote for things at critical stages.
“I’m not overtly enthusiastic about that because we would have no leadership role in it… We’re looking at forming a joint administration, if that can work.”
Due to poor relations between HRA – a group containing most independent councillors – and the current Conservative leader Damian White, a coalition between the two is not seen as likely.
Even if the Conservatives won three more seats in Rainham and Wennington, they would need to create an alliance with five other councillors to have a majority.
At the moment the only independent councillors not in the HRA are the three Harold Wood Hill Park Residents Association members.
HRA leader Ray Morgon told the LDRS he does not anticipate any defections that would help the Conservatives reach a majority.
On discussions, he added: “Nothing is finalised or cast in stone”.
In their pre-election manifestos both Labour and HRA have promised a “root and branch review” of council services.
Conservative leader Damian White told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) it is in the “best interests of residents” that two groups “come together for the borough”.
He added: “If that means the Conservatives take over with the Residents’ Groups, or Labour and Residents’ Groups, my group’s point of view is it has to be a majority – in the best interests of the borough.”
In an interview with the LDRS before the election, Cllr White warned of a political “civil war” between a “hotchpotch” coalition of residents’ groups and Labour.
Havering’s financial situation – which means it will need to cut 400 staff and £26million from its budget by 2026 – is too urgent for different political groups to “dither” over, he warned.