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Page last updated at 12:13 GMT, Sunday, 16 May 2010 13:13 UK

Coalitions are rare nationally but common locally

David Cameron and Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg and David Cameron, now the best of friends?

This week the country has been gripped by the spectacle of the first coalition government in Britain for nearly 40 years.

But in local politics coalitions are old hat.

Nearly half of the councils in the North West are ruled either by a minority administration or by two or more parties.

In Preston, for example, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives have been working together for three years.

As in the national picture, the Conservatives are by far the bigger partner, with 22 seats to the Liberal Democrats' eight. Unlike Mr Clegg and Mr Cameron, they are not in a formal coalition. The Conservatives hold all the cabinet posts, and the council leader's from the party too.

But Cllr Ken Hudson admits he does not get it all his own way. "We come up with policy and then we have to get the Liberal Democrats on board. It's all about compromise really," he says.

His Liberal Democrat counterpart Cllr Danny Gallagher agrees. "Sometimes you have to lay down the party flag and think of the good of Preston," he says.

The alliance obliges the Lib Dems to vote with the Conservatives in electing the leader, and in approving the budget but gives them free rein the rest of the year. In practice, they hardly every vote against their allies.

The people we spoke to in Preston seemed unaware that the alliance even existed, but appeared reasonably happy with the services the council provided.

But what of the Labour Party? Unlike the national picture, it is actually the largest party on the council with 24 seats. Long service councillor Veronica Afrin is pragmatic about the situation but admits she feels they should be running the show.

"We have the most seats," she says, although she would rather run as a minority administration than enter an agreement with another party.

Back to the alliance. Have the Preston duo any advice for their national counterparts?

"Communication's very important. Keep talking to the other person" says Cllr Hudson. "If you don't keep talking you've had it".

Now here's a group of people who know all about team work. The Vernon Carus cricket club. They came top of the league last year so they must be doing something right.

clip captain

The club's just on the outskirts of Preston, a city which also knows a fair bit about pulling together.

PTC

Well, let's ask the leader what he thinks.

5907 All about compromise

55.33 we take most of the decisions. Need to get lib dems along with us

5846 Do you find it frustrating?

back to 5548

56.07 It works very well.

This is the other half of the duo - councillor Danny Gallagher. In his day job he negotiates on behalf of charities like this project, which helps the homeless get back on their feet.

7.48 We have a voice whereas before we didn't have a voice.

1622 Has it worked well?

8.30 Do you actually have an imput? Absolutely

1708

Of course in any game, there's always someone sitting on the sidelines. In this case it's labour. In power for 27 years, still the party with the greatest number of seats - 24 to the Conservatives' 22, They're pragmatic but unimpressed.

3957 - deep down think you should be running council?

36.20

Of course the real test is what the voters think of it all.

vox

Well, if they haven't noticed it can't be that bad. But finally...any words of wisdom from Preston to Downing Street?

clip

clip

So Nick and Dave take note. It's all about....




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