THE leader of the Liberal Democrats has said he is confident his party can hold onto South Somerset in the local elections, despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit.

Sir Vince Cable was in Yeovil on Thursday (April 4) to launch the party’s local election campaign ahead of the South Somerset District Council poll on May 2.

Following a tour of the Fair View homeless shelter on St John’s Road, he addresses candidates and party members at The Quicksilver Mail pub, joined by Bath MP Wera Hobhouse and Yeovil prospective parliamentary candidate Mick Clark.

Mr Cable said his party was “compassionate but competent” and was “bouncing back” from the last two general elections.

Speaking before his address, Mr Cable said he wasn’t worried about his party losing control of the council they have dominated since 1987.

He said: “All the feedback I get is that that isn’t going to happen. The feedback I get is that the council is not just well-run but popular.

“I’m optimistic that we are going to gain ground, not lose it.”

South Somerset voted ‘leave’ in the EU referendum by a margin of 57 per cent to 43 per cent.

ELECTIONS 2019: Click here to find out who is standing and where

But despite this, and the ardently pro-Brexit position of Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh, Mr Cable said he wasn’t worried about his party taking a hit at the polls.

He said: “I would hope most people vote on local issues and for the local council – that’s what council elections are for.

“But if they do look at the bigger picture, Mr Fysh is one of the extreme ERG group that is denouncing the government’s own Brexit plan – so if you’re a Tory voter in Yeovil, what on Earth are you going to do?

“[You’re being] given the choice between a Conservative party that’s actually falling apart at the moment, and the Liberal Democrats who’ve got a very clear view of Brexit.

“Of course, we want to stay [in the EU] but we also want to give the public the choice, and if people want to leave without a deal that should be part of that choice.

“I think even people who are pro-Brexit would respect our position and look forward to having a say.”

Mr Cable acknowledged there was “frustration” in Yeovil with regard to public services, but laid that at the door of central government and the Conservative-run county council.

In his address to party members and candidates, he paid tribute to the late Lord Paddy Ashdown, stating his death in December 2018 had been “a big blow”.

He went on say the party was “bouncing back” from its poor performance in the last two general elections, which saw Yeovil be taken by the Conservatives in 2015 and the same party increase its majority in 2017.

Council leader Val Keitch, who is standing in the Ilminster ward, says she did not have “major concerns” about her party losing ground in Yeovil itself.

She said: “I think our track record speaks for itself. We’ve got a good story to tell, and we’ve got a good programme with the new council plan, the new economic development strategy. Our opposition appears to be in some disarray.”

A number of high-profile Lib Dem councillors are not standing for re-election – including former leader Ric Pallister (Parrett ward) and 2017 parliamentary candidate Jo Roundell Greene (Northstone, Ivelchester and St Michael’s).

But Ms Keitch said she was confident that the new candidates coming forward would hold onto these seats.

She said: “We’ve chosen the people standing there very carefully, and the people standing down are helping them canvas and introduce them to the local people – especially where they’ve stood for a lot of years.”

She also rebuffed any suggestion that the party’s stance on Brexit would damage its chances at the ballot box.

She said: “It’s not my job on the doorsteps to persuade people to become remainers if they voted leave.

“It may have some effect, but I don’t know whether that will have an effect on our vote or on the opposition’s vote.”

Ms Keitch singled out income generation and providing affordable housing as key priorities for the next four years.

She said: “Contrary to some of the stuff you might read, the commercial strategy is actually going well.

“Housing is a major priority – that’s why we took Sir Vince up to the hostel at Fair View earlier, because there is a big need for housing.

“Planning is a big issue, and it’s about looking at what we can do to ensure that the housing estates that are built in this area are fit for purpose and what people need.”

Somerset voters will go to the polls on May 2 to decide the shape of their new council. To register to vote, visit by April 12.