Election 2017: Key Tower division comes down to five votes out of more than 9,000

The election count in west Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS SHIMWELL

The election count in west Suffolk. Picture: CHRIS SHIMWELL - Credit: Archant

Five votes cast out of more than 9,000 in the Tower division of Bury St Edmunds were the difference between victory and defeat for two councillors.

Rivals David Nettleton and Paul Hopfensperger, both independent of any political party, finished virtually neck-and-neck.

Mr Nettleton had five more votes and held onto his Tower seat but the area’s Green councillor Mark Ereira finished fourth with Conservative Robert Everitt, who also sits on the borough and town councils, coming first with 1,833 votes.

He was followed by the two independents, who had 1,628 and 1,623. Mr Ereira had 1,406.

David Nettleton said afterwards: “I always thought it would be tight between us because all four of us have been councillors in the area and are well-known and have a track record of achievement. We all had a case to make.”

It is understood local Tories withstood pressure from Conservative headquarters to field two candidates for the Tower seat but refused because last time they did so the vote was split and they lost out entirely.

A split vote cost the Tories in Sudbury, however, where previous Conservative councillor John Sayers opted to stand as an Independent against Conservative candidate Adrian Osborne, allowing Labour’s Jack Owen to come first.

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Colin Noble, who hopes to continue as leader of the ruling Conservatives at Suffolk County Council, said he was disappointed at the Sudbury result.

“We had a great candidate in Sudbury and I’m really disappointed he’s not going to joining us at county. When I sat down with him, we talked about what we wanted to do for Sudbury, how we wanted Sudbury to develop and grow as a place and I’m really disappointed that he’s not going to be joining us,” he said.

UKIP’s candidates all lost in west Suffolk and the party lost three seats in Haverhill and one in Brandon.

“It’s really exciting to be able to have a full sweep because we’ve managed to win all the Haverhill seats,” said David Roach, Conservative, who took the Haverhill East and Kedington seat from UKIP.

Brandon, a Tory target, instead went to Victor Lukaniuk, who becomes Suffolk County Council’s first West Suffolk Independents councillor.

“It’s an important moment for the party to break through at county level,” he said. “We’re independent and we took on a national party in the Conservatives and won.” He received 937 votes, compared with Tory Stephen Frost’s 562.

Several new Conservative faces also joined the council’s ranks in west Suffolk.

Richard Rout triumphed in Bury’s Hardwick seat, where he replaced former cabinet member Sarah Stamp who stepped down.

“I’m very humbled by the support. We’ve had a good, positive campaign and the hard work starts now,” he said,

James Waters and Terry Clements also stood down but Louis Busuttil and Karen Soons retained their seats.

Mr Clements’ daughter Beccy Hopfensperger, wife of Paul, also retained her Thingoe North seat, with 72% of the vote.

The average turnout across west Suffolk was 33%.

Mrs Hopfensperger said: “It’s been a really good day for the Conservatives. I’m disappointed in the turnout to a certain extent but I think it was always going to be low, because of the general election overshadowing it.”

Trevor Beckwith also retained his Eastgate and Moreton Hall seat, seeing off the challenge of Conservative Peter Thompson by 1,050 votes to 924.

For all the latest on the election, click here.