LABOUR snatched a Southborough East and High Brooms Town Council seat from the Conservatives in a by-election which saw only one in five of those eligible to vote turn out last week.
Thursday’s poll resulted in Labour candidate Alain Lewis winning the seat vacated by Conservative Glenn Lester in June. Cllr Lewis secured 330 votes, accounting for 51
per cent of the total.
His opponents, Conservative Judith Symes and Liberal Democrat Allen Lear, won 249 and 64 votes respectively. Turnout was just 21 per cent. Labour had sought to capitalise on discontent surrounding the demolishing of Royal Victoria all, which took place in order to make way for the Southborough Hub project, and the perception that many of the decisions surrounding the project have been kept secret.
In addition, Cllr Lewis took aim at Ms Symes over the fact that she does not live within the area controlled by the Town Hall, stating: “I genuinely believe that town councillors should live and pay taxes in the town they represent.”
The defeat for the Conservatives on September 7 comes at a time when they also face accusations over a lack of transparency at borough council
level regarding the proposed Civic Complex development bordering Calverley Grounds.
In a sign of just how seriously they took the poll, the Times understands Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark had been out canvassing in Southborough on behalf of his party.
In response to his victory, Cllr Lewis said: “These voters have sent another strong message to the ruling Conservative group that they are fed up with the secrecy that surrounds the Community Hub project, and that they back Labour’s plan for Ridgewaye Fields to be given Village Green status to ensure that they are never built on again.”
The party representation in the Town Council is now Conservative 11, Labour six and Liberal Democrats one.