Gallery: Voters in Stowmarket elect UKIP councillor by one vote

UKIP councillor Stephen Searle with supporters after winning the Stowmarket South seat

UKIP councillor Stephen Searle with supporters after winning the Stowmarket South seat - Credit: Matt Hunter

THE UK Independence Party snatched a county seat from the Conservatives in Stowmarket by just one vote after a fourth re-count.

Stephen Searle defeated Stowmarket town mayor Anne Whybrow, who was forecast to be chairman of Suffolk County Council, in a dramatic turn of events.

Whispers went round Trinity Park, in Ipswich, that Mrs Whybrow was set to be another casualty of the UKIP’s rise in Suffolk.

After several re-counts it was finally announced that Mr Searle had won with 578 votes – just one more – than Mrs Whybrow for the Stowmarket South seat.

He said: “It’s incredible. I’m going to give my best. I will have to think about everything else. My mind is in turmoil. I am standing for UKIP and we are making our way forward and I am looking at doing my best for everybody.”

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The gain was the only one in the Mid Suffolk area but is one of nine seats so far which will be filled by UKIP councillors.

Anne Whybrow vowed to stand again in the next county election.

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She said: “It’s not a shock, it’s a disappointment. You can never be complacent. If Stowmarket is not looked after people will speak to me. People who know me know I have worked for the town and I will keeping working for Stowmarket. I have Stowmarket running all the way through me.”

Conservative Guy McGregor, who was re-elected in Hoxne & Eye said Mrs Whybrow, who had been deputy chairman of the council, had been lined up to be the new chair.

Mrs Whybrow lost almost 300 seats compared to the 2009 county council election results.

Out of 10 divisions fought the final result saw the Conservatives hold five seats with the Liberal Democrats holding three. Solo Green Party councillor for the area, Andrew Stringer, also kept his seat.

Labour failed to gain any seats in what is a largely rural area but what may alarm their supporters more is that UKIP beat them in every single division.

Jane Basham, who stood for Labour in the Police and Crime Commissioner election and was at the count, said the party needed to “step into the shoes of voters”.

She said: “I think we have really got to think about what to do in terms of the UKIP gains. I do not think it’s just a protest vote I think people are making a conscious decision and I think the issue of immigration is a contributing factor to that.”

Forecasters had predicted the county council’s controversial decision to close middle schools would affect the vote.

But Gary Green who held his Stowmarket North and Stowupland seat for the Conservatives said the issue had not been a big issue with the people he spoke to.

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