HEREFORDSHIRE Council’s ruling Tory group has lost its overall majority – on the eve of a crucial meeting.

Full council meets on Friday  to confirm its appointments to titles and committees for the coming year.

At that meeting, members could give the council’s chief executive the authority to fill  vacancies on committees or outside bodies as they arise.

The council’s appointments are assigned on a basis proportionate to group numbers with ruling group getting leader and deputy leader.

But the appointments list for Friday’s meeting was drawn up with the Tory group tied 29-29 with that of the combined opposition.

Since then the Tories have lost two councillors with the recent deaths of Peter Watts and Roger Hunt. 

With those two seats – Ledbury and Leominster South respectively – now vacant, the combined opposition vote now outnumbers that of the Tories by 29-27.

By seat numbers that breaks down to: Tories – 27, Independents – 14, It’s Our County – 12, Liberal Democrats – 2, and two seats vacant.

The council has a duty to ensure committee membership reflects its political composition as far as practicable and with just three specific exceptions – the regulatory sub committee, the River Lugg Internal Drainage Board and the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty joint advisory committee.

That composition means allocating seats to the political groups in proportion to  their numerical strength, whilst also maintain a similar proportional balance of over seat numbers.

Council must then accept nominations made by the groups for filling seats allocated to them.

On the tied figures prepared for Friday, the Tories  took 37 committee seats, the Independents 17, It’s Our County 15 and the Liberal Democrats 5.

As proposed, Tory councillors dominated membership of individual committees.

Members had been recommended to support the appointments as proposed, as is customary.

In voting for that recommendation, councillors would give the Chief Executive the power  to fill any vacancies on committees or outside bodies arising over the year, in consultation with group leaders  and according to proportionality.