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.
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“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.”
FENLAND DISTRICT COUNCIL RESULTS
(* denotes serving councillor)
Ken Mayor* (Con) 392
Tracey Wilkes (Lib Dem) 104
TURNOUT: 39.81 per cent
BENWICK, COATES AND EASTREA
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
Alan Melton* (Con) 424
Christine Colbert (Lib Dem) 234
Sandra Rylance (UKIP) 107
TURNOUT: 40.62 per cent
Carol Cox* (Con) 258
Robert McLaren (Lib Dem) 70
Ann Purt (Lab) 127
TURNOUT: 26.2 per cen
David Lewis (Lab) 167
Kay Mayor* (Con) 434
TURNOUT: 39.25 per cent
David Connor (Con) 554
Jan Feekins (Lib Dem) 169
TURNOUT: 42.89 per cent
ELM AND CHRISTCHURCH
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
Simon King* (Con) 797
Dean Reeves (Lab) 366
Luke Roscoe (Lib Dem) 202
Bruce Wegg* (Con) 677
TURNOUT: 30.37 per cent
Bob Lawrence (Con) 233
Dave Patrick* (Lib Dem) 311
John White (Lab) 96
TURNOUT: 35.11 per cent
Paul Adams (Lib Dem) 52
Steve Garratt* (Con) 453
Jes Hibbert (Lab) 162
TURNOUT: 35.66 per cent
Mark Archer* (Ind) 568
James Carney (Con) 201
TURNOUT: 47.74 per cent
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
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
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
Jonathan Farmer* (Con) 364
Mark Plumb (Lab) 194
Christopher Randall (Lib Dem) 58
TURNOUT: 30.46 per cent
PARSON DROVE AND WISBECH ST MARY
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
Heather Kinnear (Lib Dem) 62
Simon Massen (Lab) 131
David Oliver* (Con) 446
TURNOUT: 34.51 per cent
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
SLADE LODE, CHATTERIS
Chris Howes (Lib Dem) 206
Florence Newell* (Con) 301
Grant Osbourn (Lab) 140
TURNOUT: 32.23 per cent
Roger Green* (Con) 301
Reg Mee (Lab) 157
Will Schooling (UKIP) 88
TURNOUT: 29.86 per cent
ST ANDREW’S, WHITTLESEY
David Chivall (Green) 243
Derek Stebbing (Con) 542
TURNOUT: 38.27 per cent
ST MARY’S, WHITTLESEY
Hilary Chivall (Green) 104
Roy Gerstner (Ind) 324
Kenneth Peachey* (Con) 364
TURNOUT: 39.31 per cent
THE MILLS, CHATTERIS
Diane Baldry (Lib Dem) 314
John Chambers* (Con) 422
TURNOUT: 36.05 per cent
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
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)
TOWN COUNCIL RESULTS
March Town Council
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
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
Carol Cox (Con) 283
Viv MacRae (Con) 198
Ann Purt (Lab) 154
Stephen Brunton (Con) 721
David Hodgson (Con) 735
Samantha Hoy (Con) 699
Dean Reeves (Lab) 417
Bruce Wegg (Con) 715
Yvonne Lawrence (Con) 228
Robert McLaren (Lib Dem) 269
Dave Patrick (Lib Dem) 323
Philip Tolley (Con) 178
John White (Lab) 122
Jonathan Farmer (Con) 344
Michael Hill (Con) 238
Mark Plumb (Lab) 195
Phil Webb (Ind) 113