Out for the Count: Night of drama for Fenland Tories who vote to de-select county candidate from district council ticket

A TORY candidate hoping to win a seat on Cambridgeshire County Council suffered an extraordinary reversal last night after party workers de-selected him for his district council seat.

Councillor Steve Count will be consigned to political history after failing to win the nomination for March West on Fenland District Council- less than 18 months after he won the seat in a by election.

In a hustings battle at March Conservative Club, ward members opted to stay with his two fellow councillors for the three seats on Fenland Council but gave Cllr Count’s place to newcomer Adam Triggs, a local businessman and General Election aide to Tory MP Steve Barclay.

Cllr Count was devastated to lose the backing of members but, ironically, it was because of his desire to also become a county councillor that lost him some support.

Tory Party workers are becoming increasingly concerned about the number of ‘twin hatters’ within the Fenland association, those councillors who get paid for being members of both the district and county council.

Questioners at last night’s private meeting also tackled Cllr Count on his track record at Fenland Hall and also his statement, which I understand he later withdrew, that he had worked with council leader Alan Melton to create a �4 million package of savings.

Cllr Count won the by election for a seat made vacant by the death of businessman Peter Skoulding. Coincidentally the three Conservatives declared now as candidates for the May election will find them pitted against Cllr Skoulding’s son, Robert, standing for the first time as an independent candidate for both the town and district council.

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THE ballot box battle between the three candidates contesting the March North by-election includes two of the youngest ever to stand.

The Cambridgeshire County Council seat became vacant after the death of Conservative councillor John West. He won the seat in 2005 when March North was a new division.

Cllr West won the seat with 985 votes and was followed by Liberal Democrat Christine Colbert who polled 538 and Labour candidate Harry Jones with 242 votes. There was a 3.74 per cent swing to the Conservatives.

Youngest candidate, 18-year-old Neale-Wade College student Louis Sugden, is standing for Labour on March 3. He will be joined by Liberal Democrat 22-year-old Will McAdam and Cllr Count, 45, for the Conservatives.

Louis said this week that Government treatment of young people and students spurred him into action. Tripling of university fees and scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance have particularly angered him.

He said: “As someone who receives EMA and is working hard hoping to earn the money to go to university next year, I’m really angry at how devastating this Tory-led Government’s education changes have been to young people from lower income families across the country.”

University graduate Will McAdam, also a former Neale-Wade student, is highlighting proposed cuts to local bus services in his campaign and the impact on further education students relying on them to attend colleges in Wisbech and Peterborough.

Will is also voicing concerns on road safety including barriers along waterside roads.

He said: “I will be a strong campaigner for road safety, both on busy roads within March and on some of the deadly roads on the approaches to the town which have claimed too many lives.”

Cllr Count, interviewed prior to last night’s de selection, said he felt his work on the district council will stand him in good stead.

He said: “As a district councillor some of the many localised issues brought to me to have resulted in me working with my fellow councillors directly bringing about measures to reduce anti-social behaviour, solve localised flooding and improve youth facilities.”

Cllr Count says problems facing March include an overburdened sewerage system and large scale transport and highways problems throughout the Fens.

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