Walberswick: By-election finally fills vacant seats

A PARISH council is back to full strength following a by-election to fill two seats left vacant by outgoing councillors last year.

In December, a group of 10 Walberswick villagers proposed an election be held to fill the seats – but, until last month, the parish council had struggled to find candidates for membership.

Polling day passed without any contenders putting their names forward but a public appeal led to four hopefuls coming forward – two of which have now been elected to serve alongside the existing five members of the council.

The positions were made available by the exit of former councillors Mandy Aldridge and Nick Crocker last autumn. Since then, the council attracted adverse media attention when it revealed it was struggling to cope with the volume of requests for information from a small group of residents, and that in the last two years, more than 500 submissions had been made under the Freedom of Information Act, requiring the parish clerk to work more than three times her contracted hours.

Repeated attempts were made following December’s by-election proposal to encourage villagers to step forward and represent their community, with a final plea coming in the middle of last month for candidates to submit nomination forms by the February 24 deadline.

The plea paid off and voters went to the polls on Thursday, electing Aubrey Pearson with 112 votes and Brian Morton with 106 votes. Both will join the other five members of the parish council, who are all due to serve until the next scheduled round of elections in May 2015. Also standing were Robin Buncombe and Paul Denny who received 71 and 44 voted respectively.

There were 13 spoilt votes and the overall turn-out was 53.9% of the 321 people registered to vote.

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Parish council chairman, David Webb, said: “We’re pleased to welcome the two councillors and were glad with the voter turn-out. Both councillors have been elected in time for the next council meeting in April.”

Meanwhile, in Sutton Heath, near Woodbridge, the call for candidates to come forward for the district’s newest parish council proved successful, with nine people completing nomination forms.

There were vacancies for nine councillors on the new Sutton Heath Parish Council and there will now be no need for planned elections to take place on Thursday, April 19.

The names of those nominated are Michael Argent, Valerie Bird, Ian Davies, Carol Day, Nicholas Day, Michael De May, Dawson Pratt, Colin Wearmouth and Dennis Wright.

The nine nominees have until noon on Monday to decide whether to withdraw their names. If not, they will be automatically elected as parish councillors.

The go-ahead was given in January for a new parish council serving the residents of Sutton Heath coming into force at the start of April.