Greens continue to make gains as party steals seat from Conservatives in East Suffolk Council by-election
The Greens have stolen one of the Aldeburgh and Leiston seats from the Conservatives in an extraordinarily close East Suffolk Council by-election last night in which the top three were separated by just nine votes.
Two of the ward's three seats were up for grabs after the resignations of two Conservative members, but a tight contest saw Thomas Daly elected for the Greens securing 1,110 votes, while former county councillor for the area Russ Rainger won the second seat with 1,103 votes.
Just missing out was Green Matt Oakley, who received 1,101 votes, and was therefore just three votes shy of making it a Green clean sweep.
Not far behind in fourth was Conservative Andrew Reid, cabinet member for public health at Suffolk County Council, who secured 1,006 votes.
For many voters - particularly for the Leiston part of the district - the potential impact of Sizewell C was the key issue, as debate continues over the benefits and drawbacks of such a large nationally-significant infrastructure project.
Caroline Topping, Green group leader at East Suffolk Council said it was "a real shot across the bows to the Conservative party nearly losing both those seats".
"Sizewell is such a massive community issue and there is such strong feeling about it," she said. "When you consider how many people in the community must work at Sizewell, to have such a big vote in favour of the Green party, which is against Sizewell C, it is saying something about the population and the way we are going in our commitment to going carbon zero.
"I think people really do think the Green party has got something to offer them."
Steve Gallant, council and Conservative group leader, said: "We are really pleased to see the two seats in the Aldeburgh and Leiston Ward filled. My deputy leader Councillor Craig Rivett and I, look forward to working with the newly elected members.
"It’s important to us that the views of the local people in Aldeburgh and Leiston are represented at East Suffolk Council. I’m sure the newly elected members, along with [incumbent] Councillor Tony Cooper will do all they can to represent the people that live and work in the area.
"We are particularly pleased to see that councillor Russ Rainger was elected - Russ is very experienced in the workings of local government. He is a well-respected and hardworking local man who will be a real asset to our Conservative group."
Aiding the Greens was the decision by the Liberal Democrats not to stand a candidate to ensure that votes were not taken off each other that could give the Conservatives a clear run.
It is an arrangement regularly struck between the two parties, which form a group together with Independents at East Suffolk Council.
David Beavan from the East Suffolk Liberal Democrats said: "I was pleased to see our GLI group take a seat off the Tories yesterday.
"As Lib Dems we gave the Greens a free run on this election because they had two good local candidates."
The political make-up of the council now consists of 38 Conservatives, seven Labour, five Greens, three Liberal Democrats and one Independent.
One vacancy remains following the resignation of Conservative Orwell and Villages councillor, Melissa Allen, on June 18.
A by-election for that seat will be held on Thursday, August 12, with candidates contesting that seat set to be confirmed soon.
Results in full (two seats):
- Thomas Daly (Green) - 1,110 - Elected
- Russ Rainger (Conservative) - 1,103 - Elected
- Matt Oakley (Green) - 1,101
- Andrew Reid (Conservative) - 1,006
- Ian Ilett (Labour) - 355
- Mark Turner (Labour) - 311
- Steve Marsling (Communist Party of Britain) - 61
- Turnout: 26.6%. Conservative hold and Green gain from Conservative.