Tories become largest party on South Ribble Council after delayed election
The contest was postponed from the day of last month’s local elections after the sudden death of one of the incumbent candidates, Graham Walton, the week before voters went to the polls.
His widow, Karen, who previously represented the ward with her husband, stood for election once again and topped the poll. Fellow Conservative Stephen Thurlbourn secured second place.
Cllr Walton said she could not have got through the weeks since losing Graham without the support of all members of the council.
“Today was a very difficult day, but I’d just like to thank all the residents who had confidence in me to take forward all the issues that Graham and I fought for in our local ward – and continue with all the good work.
“I’m very passionate about South Ribble and keeping it a good place to live and bring up your family.”
The result means the Conservatives now become the largest party on the authority, with 23 seats; Labour have 22 and the Liberal Democrats five. There was an eight percent swing to the Tories compared to the last election in 2015 and the party won 62 percent of the vote share in the ward.
But the outcome does not change control of the council, after the Lib Dems last month agreed to help Labour take charge of the authority by offering support on a vote-by-vote basis.
Conservative opposition leader Margaret Smith said the by-election result was in line with the overall picture in the borough.
“We actually polled 6,000 more votes than Labour [in last month’s election], which I think is an endorsement of Conservatism – our administration ruled for 12 years and I think we have done a brilliant job,” Cllr Smith said.
Asked whether he thought the fact that the Tories were now the largest party gave them a moral right to rule, Labour leader Paul Foster said the group “lost that right in May”.
“It was disappointing for our candidates, but it was the result we expected,” he added.
Emma Buchanan, Labour – 246 votes
Judith Davidson, Lib Dem – 114 votes
Ryan Hamilton, Labour – 171 votes
Alison Hesketh-Holt, Lib Dem – 91 votes
Stephen Thulbourn – 497 votes
Karen Walton – 536 votes
Turnout – 27 percent