Highs, lows, tears, tantrums and surprises as Fenland decides

JUBILANT Tories celebrated as they maintained their stranglehold on Fenland District Council, picking up 34 of the 40 seats.

Council leader Alan Melton said he was “ecstatic” with the result and said the district had shown overwhelming support for his party and policies.

The poll offered some surprises, however, with independent husband and wife team Virginia and Michael Bucknor winning both seats in Waterlees, Wisbech, and ousting two sitting Conservatives.

Their campaign included references to the axing of Fenland magistrates court, the closure of the driving test centre in the town, and closure of the Register Office.

Mrs Bucknor said: “We do come as a pair, like all married couples do, but we have our own opinions.

“We’re truly independent of any party. We are independent of the other independents but hopefully if they hold the same values and beliefs as us we will support each other.”

She added that if they disagree with each other “we will say. However, we usually always agree with each other. We share almost identical views.

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“We campaigned as a pair because there were two seats and we wanted both votes. We must have put literature through nearly 2,000 doors so it needed a team effort.”

Voters caught up in the threatened maelstrom of a bitter de-selection contest in Elm, Christchurch and Friday Bridge decided it wasn’t that interesting in the first place.

Two out of every three of them stayed away leaving the official Tory candidates to easily walk away with the two seats and a resounding defeat for ousted Tory councillor and former Cabinet member Phil Webb.

Triumphant Tory Will Sutton said: “We’ve got in through hard work and I wasn’t too nervous. I haven’t seen Phil Webb, it seems as if he’s vanished since the result was called, but there’s not a problem with him on my part.

“I’m just delighted that the Conservatives are winning and retaining seats.”

Safety campaigner Gavin Booth pulled off the biggest shock of the day by snatching one of the two Parson Drove and Wisbech St Mary seats for the Liberal Democrats.

Mr Booth has been chairman of Parson Drove Parish Council but its’ been his work as chair of the Fenland Rural Road Safety Action Network that has brought him much wider appeal.

His surprise victory doubles the number of Lib Dem councillors at Fenland Hall as he joins Wisbech councillor Dave Patrick for what now looks likely to be the Tories’ official opposition.

Booth said: “I would like to thank everyone for helping me out in the campaign. It’s been encouraging to see the amount of support we have.

“I’m probably not making a lot of sense at the moment because of the sheer joy. It’s a great result and demonstrates the hard work that’s gone into the campaign. It has been a classic campaign of literature and knocking on doors.

“It’s disappointing that we haven’t got more opposition to the Conservatives locally but I hope to push forward more issues and get more common sense on the council.”

Steve Tierney, who missed out on a seat, finishing third with 602 votes, said: “It was very close and of course I’m disappointed. It was a wonderful campaign which was fought brilliantly by both parties.

“It was a fierce battle with candidates out on the street and that’s what I want to see in local elections, it’s very healthy. I’m sad to lose but I’m sure Gavin Booth will do a good job. I hope to be back to stand again in the future.”

Defeated Lib Dem activist Chris Howes launched an extraordinary assault against the council after his latest bid to win a Chatteris seat ended in failure.

“It’s deeply disappointing,” he said. “I believe that something rotten remains in Fenland Hall, that the ghosts of the previous regime haven’t been exorcised.

“I have tried for eight years to become a district councillor to find out what has really been happening.”

His victorious Tory opponent Florrie Newell wept as she addressed the room. She said: “That meant a lot to me. I really do fight very hard for Chatteris. I shouldn’t, but I have got worried about who would do what I do.

“I want to do another four years to complete what I have started. I’m halfway there for leisure in Chatteris. I need the swimming pool and then I will have done my bit.

“I have worked so hard for this swimming pool. My colleagues think they might throw me in if we get it.

“I’m so thankful for all the support I have got. It has renewed my faith in human nature.”

Also joining the council for the first time is hotelier Rob Skoulding whose late father was a long standing Conservative councillor and Cabinet member.

Son Robert shrugged off political allegiances by standing as an independent and won the day.

“I personally do not think party politics have a place in local government,” he said. “It should be for the good of the town or district and not for the good of the party.

“I will never be able to fill my dad’s shoes because he was one of a kind and I wouldn’t even try. I have to make my own way.

“My agent said to me that my dad would be proud today, which I felt very humbled by.”

Defeated Tory opponent Adam Triggs, who finished fourth with 813 votes, said: “I’m very disappointed but I couldn’t have lost to a better guy and I was aware of the threat Rob was going to cause.

“He’s a great guy, I’ve known him all my life and I wholeheartedly believe I couldn’t have lost to a better candidate. I know he’ll do his best for the people of March.

“Going forward there are lessons to be learned and I’ll be coming back in the future for another go.”

There were no surprises in the March East ward, as all three Conservatives - John Clark, Bernard Keane and Fred Yeulett - retained their seats with a turnout of 38.36 per cent.

Defeated Independent Reg Kemp, who got the lowest vote of the seven candidates with 537, said: “I think there are two factors where I’m concerned. One is that the turnout was lower than I’d anticipated and I thought with the referendum more people may come out and vote and that would give the non-conservatives a bit of an opportunity.

“The other is that the other votes were spread between Labour and myself.

“I did the best I could. I’m grateful to the people who have supported me and were prepared to put confidence in me. I will continue to work, as I have done for many years now, for the community in March.”

One Independent who did enjoy success was Mark Archer, who comfortably retained his seat in Manea with 568 votes to James Carney’s 201.

He said: “I didn’t take it for granted at all. I have worked hard.

“James Carney ran a good campaign and canvassed hard and so if he had won it would have been deserved.

“The problem was he was always fighting against a local person. Manea is a very independent minded village and I’m delighted to live in it.

“I wasn’t born in Manea but they have taken me into their hearts and I’m grateful for that.

“I’m certainly not a one man band in the village and there’s a group of people always there to support me.

“I’m just grateful that there’s at least two voices on the council that are not part of the ruling group.”

One of the first results of the day saw Council Leader Alan Melton stroll to victory in Birch ward, Chatteris.

Defeated Lib Dem opponent Christine Colbert said: “I’m mainly pleased in one sense that Fenland has a democracy again and wards are being contested. We’ve all given people a reason to get out there and vote and I still believe we do that as a party.

“I thought I might lose some votes to the UKIP candidate Sandra Rylance because she’s a very nice woman and well-known locally.

“Nationally there is a problem with the party because I think we’re still suffering from the repercussions of people having doubts with our role in the coalition. I do, however, believe that at national level we had no other choice but to do what we did.”

It was a good day for Jonathan Farmer, who retained his seat in Medworth ward, Wisbech, and his seat on the Wisbech Town Council.

Speaking about his re-election to Fenland District Council, Cllr Farmer joked: “It was almost a re-run of four years ago but I got four more votes than last time – so in 200 years I will have the sort of majority I would like. Thanks to the voters.”

In the town council elections, the man who was set to become the Mayor of March on Monday lost his seat.

Andrew Donnelly, deputy Mayor of March for the last 12 months, was defeated in the March West election. His 852 votes were not enough to secure re-election.

Rob Skoulding polled 1,229 votes in the town council election for the same ward. The other three candidates who won seats were Kit Owen (1,133 votes), Steve Count (1,058) and Jan French (1,053). Cllr Owen and Cllr French were also elected to Fenland District Council in March West.

After the results were announced, Cllr French said of Mr Donnelly’s defeat: “I would like to give my commiserations to Andrew Donnelly our deputy mayor who was due to become mayor this year. It is a sad loss.”

Another high-profile casualty of the town council elections is Yvonne Lawrence, the Mayor of Wisbech in 2009-10.

She lost her seat in Kirkgate Ward to Robert McLaren - Cllr McLaren polled 269 votes compared to Mrs Lawrence’s 228.

Fenland councillor Dave Patrick took the second Kirkgate ward seat with 323 votes.

Counting in the town and parish council elections has now been suspended to count the results in the Alternative Vote referendum. The count will restart on Monday.

At the conclusion of the count, Cllr Melton said “the biggest winner had been democracy”.

He said: “I would like to thank the people of Fenland for once again putting their trust in us. We will not let you down.”


(* denotes serving councillor)


(One seat)

Ken Mayor* (Con) 392

Tracey Wilkes (Lib Dem) 104

TURNOUT: 39.81 per cent


(Two seats)

Shane Alexander (Green) 194

Ralph Butcher* (Con) 880

Aidan Hervey (Lab) 248

Alex Miscandlon (Con) 530

Bob Wicks (Ind) 414

TURNOUT: 41.47 per cent


(One seat)

Alan Melton* (Con) 424

Christine Colbert (Lib Dem) 234

Sandra Rylance (UKIP) 107

TURNOUT: 40.62 per cent


(One seat)

Carol Cox* (Con) 258

Robert McLaren (Lib Dem) 70

Ann Purt (Lab) 127

TURNOUT: 26.2 per cen


(One seat)

David Lewis (Lab) 167

Kay Mayor* (Con) 434

TURNOUT: 39.25 per cent


(One seat)

David Connor (Con) 554

Jan Feekins (Lib Dem) 169

TURNOUT: 42.89 per cent


(Two seats)

Mac Cotterell* (Con) 711

Robert Pinnock (Ind) 198

Nicholas Poole (Lab) 221

Verity Roscoe (Lib Dem) 118

Will Sutton (Con) 489

Phil Webb* (Ind) 268

TURNOUT: 34.26 per cent


(Two seats)

Simon King* (Con) 797

Dean Reeves (Lab) 366

Luke Roscoe (Lib Dem) 202

Bruce Wegg* (Con) 677

TURNOUT: 30.37 per cent


(One seat)

Bob Lawrence (Con) 233

Dave Patrick* (Lib Dem) 311

John White (Lab) 96

TURNOUT: 35.11 per cent


(One seat)

Paul Adams (Lib Dem) 52

Steve Garratt* (Con) 453

Jes Hibbert (Lab) 162

TURNOUT: 35.66 per cent


(One seat)

Mark Archer* (Ind) 568

James Carney (Con) 201

TURNOUT: 47.74 per cent


(Three seats)

John Clark* (Con) 1,154

Martin Field (Lab) 727

Bernard Keane* (Con) 1,002

Reg Kemp (Ind) 537

Louis Sugden (Lab) 617

Robert Williams (Lab) 613

Fred Yeulett* (Con) 914

TURNOUT: 38.36 per cent


(Three seats)

Mike Cornwell (Con) 1,064

William McAdam (Lib Dem) 468

Trevor Quince* (Con) 923

Matthew Routledge (Lab) 627

Peter Tunley* (Con) 827

TURNOUT: 34.79 per cent


(Three seats)

Matt Broadfield (Ind) 483

Christopher Carter (Lab) 472

Stephen Court (Lib Dem) 460

Jan French* (Con) 1,019

Kit Owen* (Con) 1,117

Rob Skoulding (Ind) 1,082

Adam Triggs (Con) 813

TURNOUT: 43.25 per cent


(One seat)

Jonathan Farmer* (Con) 364

Mark Plumb (Lab) 194

Christopher Randall (Lib Dem) 58

TURNOUT: 30.46 per cent


(Two seats)

Gavin Booth (Lib Dem) 652

David Goode (Lab) 303

Mary Lane (Lib Dem) 405

Robert Scrimshaw* (Con) 849

Steve Tierney (Con) 602

TURNOUT: 42.87 per cent


(One seat)

Heather Kinnear (Lib Dem) 62

Simon Massen (Lab) 131

David Oliver* (Con) 446

TURNOUT: 34.51 per cent


(Two seats)

Philip Hatton* (Con) 1,092

Michael Humphrey* (Con) 1,256

Kay Scott (Lab) 590

Christopher Seaton* (Con) 1,007

Nicholas Smith (Lib Dem) 361

TURNOUT: 40.35 per cent


(One seat)

Chris Howes (Lib Dem) 206

Florence Newell* (Con) 301

Grant Osbourn (Lab) 140

TURNOUT: 32.23 per cent


(One seat)

Roger Green* (Con) 301

Reg Mee (Lab) 157

Will Schooling (UKIP) 88

TURNOUT: 29.86 per cent


(One seat)

David Chivall (Green) 243

Derek Stebbing (Con) 542

TURNOUT: 38.27 per cent


(One seat)

Hilary Chivall (Green) 104

Roy Gerstner (Ind) 324

Kenneth Peachey* (Con) 364

TURNOUT: 39.31 per cent


(One seat)

Diane Baldry (Lib Dem) 314

John Chambers* (Con) 422

TURNOUT: 36.05 per cent


(Two seats)

Michael Bucknor (Ind) 381

Virginia Bucknor (Ind) 392

Paul Clapp (UKIP) 165

Barry Diggle (Lab) 186

Avis Gilliatt (Lab) 177

Ray Griffin* (Con 298

Christopher Hancox (Lib Dem) 31

Christopher Schooling (UKIP) 137

David Wheeler* (Con) 285

TURNOUT: 27.02 per cent


(One seat)

Peter Murphy* (Con) 607

Josie Ratcliffe (Lib Dem) 186

TURNOUT: 39.84 per cent

The following councillors were returned unopposed:


Martin Curtis* (Con)


Pop Jolley (Con)


March Town Council

March East

(Four seats)

Martin Field (Lab) 818

Bernard Keane (Con) 1,124

Reg Kemp (Ind) 686

Gavin Philpott (Con) 1,020

Andrew Pugh (Con) 926

Mark Purser (Con) 885

Louis Sugden (Lab) 729

Robert Williams (Lab) 683

March West

(Four seats)

Steve Count (Con) 1,058

Stephen Court (Lib Dem) 625

Andrew Donnelly (Con) 852

Jan French (Con) 1,053

Kit Owen (Con) 1,133

Rob Skoulding (Ind) 1,229

Wisbech Town Council


(Two seats)

Carol Cox (Con) 283

Viv MacRae (Con) 198

Ann Purt (Lab) 154


(Four seats)

Stephen Brunton (Con) 721

David Hodgson (Con) 735

Samantha Hoy (Con) 699

Dean Reeves (Lab) 417

Bruce Wegg (Con) 715


(Two seats)

Yvonne Lawrence (Con) 228

Robert McLaren (Lib Dem) 269

Dave Patrick (Lib Dem) 323

Philip Tolley (Con) 178

John White (Lab) 122


(Two seats)

Jonathan Farmer (Con) 344

Michael Hill (Con) 238

Mark Plumb (Lab) 195

Phil Webb (Ind) 113