Anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to the goings on at Cheshire East Council over recent years will know it hasn’t been the happiest of places.

There has been a significant catalogue of problems ranging from allegations of bullying, failed projects and so many police investigations I’ve actually lost count.

Senior staff were put under investigation and on extended garden leave (at significant cost to council taxpayers) before resigning, air quality data figures were fabricated and the less said about former council leader Michael Jones the better.

Things got so bad there were actually calls for the council to be put in special measures but that was never going to happen, was it?

It was totally unrealistic to expect that one of the Conservative’s flagship councils would ever come under the kind of scrutiny it deserved from a Conservative government.

And so it sailed blithely on, stumbling from one PR blunder to the next flawed decision miss-step.

Cheshire East actually had to bring in consultancy firm Sticky Change to help it work on a ‘brighter future together’ programme during 2018-19 – a scheme designed to improve the local authority’s workplace culture – at a cost of £152,460.

It came after a Local Government Association review, commissioned by the council itself, found that almost a quarter of council staff it surveyed were aware of workplace bullying in the second half of 2017.

In that report, the LGA stated that incidents of bullying came from ‘predominantly people who have power within the organisation’.

So fast forward to Thursday’s council elections and what did we get? Well, shock of all shocks, the controlling Tory group lost overall control of Cheshire East Council.

I think at this stage it’s fair enough to ask why that may have happened.

Maybe it’s the Brexit effect.

Or perhaps in the particular case of Cheshire East it might possibly have had more to do with the raft of problems peculiar to this council.

Now I’m no politician but if my council and party had failed so dramatically at an election such as the one we have just had, I would want a clear understanding of what went wrong so I could take steps to ensure it didn’t happen again.

I would launch an immediate investigation to see what part was played by local factors and historic decisions my council and party had made.

Is that what Cheshire East Tories are doing?

No, it’s not.

Instead, council leader Rachel Bailey has blamed the ‘impasse of Brexit’ after her party lost overall control of the authority.

Yep, that’s right, it’s just Brexit.

After a dramatic day of results, the council is now made up of 34 Tories, 25 from Labour, 19 independents and four Liberal Democrats.

As Local Democracy Reporter Aran Dhillon said, it could have been even worse for the Conservatives but leader Cllr Bailey survived a scare to hold onto her Audlem seat, beating Liberal Democrat Richard Derricutt by just 78 votes.

Commenting on the elections results, Cllr Bailey says she has no doubt that national issues surrounding Brexit played a massive role at the ballot box.

She told the Guardian: “I am very sad because the Conservative group has worked very hard to bring forward excellent service delivery, we have had a balanced budget in a very difficult fiscal time and we brought massive investment to Cheshire East in terms of infrastructure.

“Looking at the leaflets and our messaging about the campaign, it made me feel really proud about the achievements that have been made.

“Today, we find ourselves in Cheshire East in the same place as many authorities that have been out for election – that, actually, there is a swing to the independents.

“The electorate absolutely expressed their disappointment with the impasse of Brexit with the two main parties.

“This is a very different outcome in an election than you would normally see, in ordinary times ~it is usually the two main parties that hold swathe one way or another.

“Here we are seeing that return to the Liberal Democrats, as they have established themselves following their tough round four years ago, and that focus on independents.”

And there you have Cheshire East’s problems in a nutshell. A little humility and an acceptance that maybe, just maybe, the authority’s own problems may have played a significant part would have gone a long way.

Talking of problematic politics, I note with interest that in the Middlewich ward, Labour gained all three seats from Middlewich First.

What’s gone wrong there for Middlewich First, I wonder, given that independents seem to have done so well in other parts of Cheshire East?

By Guardian columnist The Fly in the Ointment