ELECTION: Stalwarts lose seats in Fenland landslide

VOTERS went to the polls on Thursday to chose their Local Government repr-esentatives for the next four years.

And for the first time in voting history two of the counts took place the day after polling day.

Both Fenland District Council and West Norfolk Borough Council chose to count the votes the next day.

The Fenland count was held at the Hudson Centre in Wisbech and started on Friday afternoon.

Fenland chose to use a new 'grass skirt' system to count the votes, which meant every ballot paper was stuck down on a sheet of paper in a frill-effect before the 'Xs' were counted.

It took around four hours to complete the count on the contested wards for the district council. Counting for parish and town councils did not begin until well after 5pm.

There are 27 wards on the district with a total 40 seats.

Only 13 wards were contested in this election.

There were several shock results, not least in Wisbech where the Waterlees Ward (formerly the North Ward) was taken from Labour by the Conservatives.

Tory candidates Ray Griffin and David Wheeler were both delighted to find themselves elected. But their jubilation was at the expense of long-term councillor Avis Gilliatt, who has represented the ward for the past eight years.

She said: "I have worked hard. We will see how it goes for the next four years. I have been honest and straight forward and always done the job."

Another upset for Labour was the loss of March councillor Barry Howlett, who was defeated in both the district and town council to Tory candidates.

Mr Howlett, who has represented the East Ward for 10 years, said: "I am very disappointed, of course I am," He partly blamed the unpopularity of the Government for his defeat.

He also believed the two Lib Dem candidates who fought March East had played a role.

"They were spoilers. They didn't take any Tory votes, they took votes off me," he added.

In Chatteris, Florence Newell was celebrating after being re-elected. She had been facing strong opposition from Lib Dem Chris Howes for her seat on Fenland, but she took the Slade Lode Ward winning by a comfortable 37 votes from Mr Howes, with Labour's Grant Osbourn taking just 67 votes.

But Mrs Newell admitted: "I was really worried this time.

The strength of the opposition did concern me, but the people of Chatteris have spoken and I shall not argue with the way they have voted."

Now she is determined to see Chatteris finally get the leisure facilities it deserves.

"I have been fighting for a swimming pool and leisure facilities for years, now I hope we will be able to achieve that in the next four years," she said.

Fellow Chatteris representative Alan Melton, was also celebrating after being re-elected.

He was looking forward to representing the people of Chatteris for the next four years, but he ruled himself out of any leadership battle.

"I can state quite categorically that I will not be seeking election as the either the leader of the council or the Conservative group and nor will I be standing for deputy leader," said Mr Melton, who is a former holder of both positions.

Looking forward to getting back to district level government is Phil Webb, of Friday Bridge.

After moving to the village, Mr Webb said he was happy to stand when a vacancy arose. He said crime was one the main areas he hopes to have some impact on.

Mayoral referendum campaigner Robert Pinnock missed out on a place at Fenland but both he and his wife Helen were elected unopposed at parish level.

This was Mr Pinnock's second attempt at the district council, and he was pleased to poll more votes this time around than he did last time.

In all Conservatives took all but one of the 40 seats, with just Manea Independent Mark Archer as the only opposition councillor.