Conservatives and Greens on top in West Suffolk Council by-elections
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
The Conservatives have increased their majority on West Suffolk Council after a series of by-election wins - but the Greens held onto one ward to prevent a Tory clean sweep.
Voters cast their ballots on Thursday for six vacant seats at West Suffolk Council, with results declared from Bury Leisure Centre on Monday.
The Conservatives took five, gaining Lakenheath as well as Clare, Hundon and Kedington from Independents, while the Greens held on to Abbeygate.
Former Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble was returned for Lakenheath, having lost out in the 2019 district elections. He also retained his Row Heath seat at the county council on Friday.
"I am pleased to regain it - 2019 was quite a difficult time for the Conservative party, and I had represented it as a ward since 2011, so I was very disappointed to lose last time," he said.
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Mr Noble said that people had recognised the success of the vaccine rollout under the Conservatives, and added: "People are very pleased that we have been so successful in accelerating that programme."
He confirmed he had "no interest at all" in challenging for the county council leadership again.
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The new councillor for Clare, Hundon and Kedington is Nick Clarke.
He has top-level council experience, having led Cambridgeshire County Council between 2011 and 2013.
He had been a UKIP member from 2015 for two years, but has opted to return to frontline politics with the Conservatives.
Mr Clarke said there was a "different feel in Suffolk than Cambridgeshire" and said that the easing of Covid-19 restrictions meant there was "a certain confidence around at the moment" in the Conservatives.
Julia Wakelam was elected for the Greens in the Abbeygate ward in Bury St Edmunds.
She said: "[Voters] share my concern about the quality of air in our town, which is often really poor with traffic and cars idling.
"They share concerns about the new local plan that will shape Bury, and that's one of the reasons I felt strongly we need a Green voice."
Experienced Conservative Sarah Stamp made her return to the authority, winning the Southgate ward - having served at its predecessor St Edmundsbury Borough Council for four years up to May 2019.
She had also been a county councillor between 2013 and 2017.
She said: "I am absolutely delighted, really pleased to be elected, and just massively grateful to the people of Southgate."
She felt voters recognised the Conservatives were "people who work hard for local issues".
Sarah Pugh was elected for Whepstead and Wickhambrook to keep the seat blue.
Her decision to stand was prompted by her experience as a business owner - Sea Pictures Gallery in Clare - and the support needed for fellow firms through the pandemic.
She said: "I have seen the number of business hidden behind hedges, gardens, barns and the most unprepossessing of places.
"These are people with a passion for what they are doing and they just needed that little bit of support, and the pandemic has shown to the council they didn't have all the information."
Birgitte Mager is the new Conservative councillor for Moreton Hall, having secured more than double the votes of her nearest competitor.
She said she wanted to ensure that "Bury St Edmunds really does go from strength to strength".
The results mean there are now 40 Conservatives, 12 Independents, six West Suffolk Independents, four Labour, one Green and one 'not specified'.
Abbeygate: Julia Wakelam (G) 751, Nick Wiseman (C) 606, Cheryl Godber (L) 279. Turnout: 43.23%. Green hold.
Clare, Hundon and Kedington: Nick Clarke (C) 1,814, Kerry Rogers (L) 697. Turnout: 40.22%. Con gain from Ind.
Lakenheath: Colin Noble (C) 573, Gerald Kelly (Ind) 434, Layla Britton (L) 119, David Chandler (Ind) 64. Turnout: 28.93%. Con gain from Ind.
Moreton Hall: Birgitte Mager (C) 1,098, Barry Thomas (Ind) 496, Cyrille Bouche (L) 495. Turnout: 35.94%. Con hold.
Southgate: Sarah Stamp (C) 814, Richard O'Driscoll (L) 251, Chris Dexter-Mills (G) 186, Helen Korfanty (LD) 148. Turnout: 43.70%. Con hold.
Whepstead and Wickhambrook: Sarah Pugh (C) 645, Robin Davies (L) 142, Vicki Martin (G) 137. Turnout: 44.95%. Con hold.
Key: C – Conservative, L – Labour, LD – Liberal Democrats, G – Green Party, Ind – Independent.