After a week and a half of political wrangling a formal coalition between the Residents Association Group and the Liberal Democrats at Elmbridge Council was formally unveiled – but not without a twist as one councillor jumped ship before the end of the night.

Negotiations sparked by the shock May 5 election results went down to the wire.

But the residents’ group took victory as leader Stuart Selleck was narrowly voted into the council’s top spot with 25 votes, to Conservative leader Tim Oliver’s 21 votes, on Wednesday night.

He said: “Who would’ve believed it? The residents of Elmbridge have voted for a change. We concluded the best way forward was to join with our Liberal Democrat colleagues.

“We believe this agreement will provide confidence to our residents. I’m very proud to be elected leader of this council, this is a new chapter in Elmbridge.”

While Tories claimed after the election that they had seen the writing on the wall, the real surprise of Wednesday night was the decision of Molesey councillor Tony Popham to leave the coalition, according to its new leader.

Cllr Selleck said: “Tony disagreed with the way we were proceeding. He is now what we call ‘ungrouped’.

“The residents’ group allows people to have expressive opinions. We have to respect his views.”

Cllr Popham could not be reached for comment.

The formalities of the annual council meeting also saw Lib Dem head Andrew Davis take the deputy council leader spot, with Thames Ditton and Weston Green councillor Tannia Shipley succeeding Jan Fuller as mayor of Elmbridge.

Councillor Davis’ new position provoked ire among Tory councillors including Andrew Kelly and Dorothy Mitchell, who branded him the “Nick Clegg of Elmbridge” after the Conservatives were nudged out of power.

Tory leader Tim Oliver said: “The borough will now be run by a coalition of eight disparate groups and interests – a coalition of an already existing coalition of residents’ groups.

“This mismatched marriage of convenience makes a mockery of the Residents Association Group’s frequent claims of being above party politics. At the first opportunity of taking power they have joined with the Liberal Democrats – a national political party.”

The Conservatives won 22 seats at the count on May 7, just ahead of the residents associations with 19 seats and the Liberal Democrats with seven seats.

Cllr Selleck told the Comet the decision to partner with the Lib Dems had come after “at least eight” meetings in the days after the poll, during which, he said, the residents’ groups did not approach the Conservatives “at all”.

He said: “It’s not an easy decision, we’re not used to these things. This is the right conclusion that was always the long-term goal.

“We had more likelihood of something with the Liberals rather than the Conservatives. I thought we had as a good chance as anyone, but the swing surprised all of us.

"We’ve lost one or two very good residents from both sides, that’s what the residents have voted for. That’s why we had to have a formal relationship with the Lib Dems.”