Update: Conflicting theories from Haverhill councillors about UKIP's success in the town
PUBLISHED: 13:25 10 January 2014 | UPDATED: 20:37 10 January 2014
The UK Independence Party consolidated its position in its Suffolk stronghold with resounding victories in by-elections for a town and district council.
UKIP candidates Tony Brown and Paul Firman won more votes than the other candidates combined in winning election to Haverhill East ward of St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Haverhill Town Council, in elections that were held simultaneously on Thursday.
Haverhill already had UKIP representation on the town, district and county council.
Mr Brown, already one of two UKIP county councillors for Haverhill, attributed the party’s success to years of neglect from Suffolk County and St Edmundsbury Borough councils.
“Basically we’ve proved that we work well on the local issues,” said Mr Brown, who cited poor transport links and repeated withdrawals of grant funding as major concerns for residents.
“We’ll soon be a town of 35,000 people, and we’ve only got one piece of road that’s a dual carriageway that goes anywhere.
“The borough and the county doesn’t address their concerns. That’s why they’ve come behind us, because they’re looking for an alternative.
“We’re not a small little town of 10,000 people any more. Haverhill is much more than just a poor second cousin of Bury St Edmunds.”
However, Conservative Anne Gower, who is Haverhill’s only non-UKIP county councillor and sits on the borough council, rejected Mr Brown’s claims.
She said: “I’ve fought Haverhill’s corner at every opportunity since I was elected. I’ve worked extremely hard on getting things for the town.
“A lot of national issues that are concerning people - green issues, immigration - these are all big, headline issues, and I think people are voting to say that actually, in government, we’re not very happy with what you’re saying.
“When I was canvassing last year, the two big issues in the town were immigration and gay marriage.”
Labour’s Maureen Byrne, a Haverhill town and borough councillor, agreed national issues were behind UKIP’s success, but did highlight problems locally.
“I think with Suffolk County Council and the borough, we don’t get a fair deal. I still believe they vote for UKIP on national issues rather than local issues, though.”
For election to the borough council, Mr Brown got 529 votes, Labour’s Patrick Hanlon got 240 votes, Tory David Roach got 157 votes and Liberal Democrat Ken Rolph got 54 votes.
In the town council election, Mr Firman got 630 votes, Labour’s Elizabeth Smith got 229 votes and Lib Dem Ken Rolph got 107 votes.