INDEPENDENT Wigton councillor Marion Fitzgerald has been mooted as the next leader of Allerdale council.

The new Conservative leader Mark Jenkinson has been suggested as deputy leader as well as portfolio-holder for Environment.

Coun Fitzgerald admitted that such discussions had indeed taken place, but also stressed it would be “premature” to say it was a “done deal”.

The next leader of the council is set to be announced at Allerdale council’s Annual General Meeting on May 22, with Lakes College the likely venue.

Independent candidates stormed to victory on May 2, clinching 19 seats as Labour suffered a big slump and the Conservatives kept 15.

The shock result has thrown the borough’s political scene into turmoil, with factions now in talks to form a new administration.

The Local Democracy Service has been told by two sources that coun Fitzgerald was suggested as leader at a meeting on Friday.

Asked if these claims were true, coun Fitzgerald said: “I will go this far; discussions around those things have taken place, but we have nothing definitive yet.

“Each of the (Independent) groups sent representatives to the meeting. It is premature to say that a deal has been done.

“There have been a series of meetings, but we are making progress. However, nothing will be clear until the AGM on May 22.”

She added: “My opinion – and that’s because the voting was very divided on May 2 – is that it needs to be a mixed administration that reflects what people voted for.”

She declined to answer a direct question about whether she wanted the leadership.

The Conservatives originally had one more seat than Labour after the local elections.

But following a subsequent leadership tussle which saw Tory leader Tony Annison announce his intention to leave the party, they are now level-pegging.

Previously, the Tories categorically refused to “prop up” third place Labour which slumped from 27 to 14 seats.

The Conservatives branded such a coalition “undemocratic” and have been in talks with the Independents.

The Independents have the numbers, but they are broad church politically, falling into at least three groupings.

Some factions have been openly hostile towards Labour in the past, while others have been more open to striking a deal.

A senior source has claimed that coun Fitzgerald had approached Labour to negotiate only to be knocked back by the Group.

Labour’s Alan Smith remains in the top job until May 22 when the new leader will be formally announced.

Coun Fitzgerald is a primary school teacher from Bolton Low Houses near Wigton and represents the Dalton ward.