Tories retain stranglehold

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FENLAND council remains tightly in the grip of the Tories despite some shock results in last week’s local elections.

Three Conservative councillors found themselves ousted by Independents while a fourth lost out to a Liberal Democrat.

In all six of the council’s 40 seats fell to opposition candidates - which meant a trebling of the non-Conservative members.

Previously there were just two non-Tory members - Mark Archer an Independent representing Manea, who was at one time the lone opposition voice, and Liberal Democrat and taxi campaigner David Patrick, who won his original place in a by-election.

Both men were re-elected with Mark Archer’s majority increasing on the poll of four years ago.

Among the biggest shocks of the day was the loss by the Conservatives of both the Wisbech Waterlees seats, which were won by Independent husband and wife team Michael and Virginia Bucknor.

Losing incumbent David Wheeler looked devastated at his defeat, with the upset not helped when returning officer Sandra Claxton - Fenland’s Chief Executive - announced the result allocating Mr Wheeler just 28 votes. An error quickly corrected to his actual result of 285 after a few moments of stunned silence.

Mr Wheeler’s fellow Waterlees Tory Ray Griffin was equally disappointed to lose out to the Bucknors.

Meanwhile outspoken Tory Steve Tierney also suffered a shock defeat with voters in the Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary ward bucking the national trend to back a Liberal Democrat in the form of safety campaigner Gavin Booth.

Mr Booth polled 50 more votes than Mr Tierney to snatch the ward’s second seat with Conservative Robert Scrimshaw easily winning the other by polling just under 300 votes more than his nearest rival.

Council Leader Alan Melton was cock-a-hoop at the result. His own personal performance saw his majority increase on that of the last election.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted. I feel all the work I have put in over the last four years in Fenland and Chatteris has been vindicated.

“I feel this result is an endorsement of the way we have run the council and of our policies and I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Chatteris and Fenland.”

Fellow Chatteris councillor Florence Newell was emotional and delighted to have been voted back in. She has promised to continue the fight for a swimming pool for Chatteris.

One of the more amusing acceptance speeches of the day came from Wisbech Medworth ward representative Jonathan Farmer.

He said: “I would like to thank everyone who voted for me. Last time I got 350 votes, this time I got 344, which is six less and by my calculations that will mean that in about 130 years time you will have got rid of me.”

At March the familiar name of Skoulding was back at Fenland Hall in the shape of Robert Skoulding, son of the late Peter Skoulding who was a Fenland councillor for many years.

However, Robert Skoulding stood as an independent rather than following in his father’s Conservative footsteps.

“I don’t believe in party politics in local government,” said Robert, who added he was surprised to have come in second place to win one of the three March West seats.

He will be serving the ward alongside long-standing district councillors Jan French and Kit Owen. Mr Owen was delighted to have gained the highest number of votes of any candidate across the district.

Meanwhile there was an anxious wait for candidates facing election to the district’s town and parish councils as those counts weresuspended to allow the Alternative Vote referendum votes to be counted.

As a result most of the town and parish votes were counted on Monday rather than Friday.