Thursday’s by-election in Southborough North followed the usual voting patterns, with the Conservatives holding the seat with 60% of the vote – identical to the share that they achieved in a similar by-election in the same seat three years ago.
The result appeared to represent the endorsement the Council wanted for its plans to replace all the Town’s public buildings. However, the chilly damp weather resulted in a low turnout of just 23% – half that of the by-election three years ago that was held in warmer summer weather.
One Conservative Councillor immediately commented that spending Council funds on the February by-election was “a disgraceful waste of public money.” The winning Conservative secured the support of just 14 % of those who could have voted in Southborough North.
The February 9th 2017 by-election result was:
|Allen Lear||Lib Dem||295||40|
There were 5 rejected ballot papers: one multiple vote and 4 blank.
Mr Kinghorn is pictured below after his win in the centre with Cllr Peter Oakford on the left of picture and the current Southborough mayor, Cllr David Elliot on the right.
All the passionate arguments on both sides of the Hub debate over the past year would seem to have made little impact on the wider electorate. The percentage support for the Conservatives was identical to the Southborough North by-election in May 2014, which saw the election of Bill LeGrys (Result below). His resignation over council “infighting” in the debates over the Southborough Hub led to the by-election.
|Jo Wright||Lib Dem||252||18|
Although the Conservatives obtained 400 fewer votes this time than this comparable by-election before the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall was proposed, the opposition also lost 267 votes from that 2014 vote.
The Liberal Democrat candidate this time, Allen Lear, told voters he had signed the petition, “Southborough Deserves Better”, demanding a rethink of the Hub plans:
However, the Liberal Democrat campaign leaflet was equivocal saying: “Allen has supported past campaigns to keep the Royal Victoria Hall (pictured below) as part of the Hub development. He now feels the scheme should proceed as planned.”
The victorious Conservative candidate, Ian Kinghorn, had – as vice-Chairman of the Southborough Society – spoken in person at the crucial planning meeting to help persuade the planning committee to approve the demolition of the Royal Victoria Hall, even though the 100 year-old theatre was recently given the official status of a “heritage asset”.
Mr Kinghorn stated in his election leaflet: “I am pleased that through the tireless efforts of local Conservatives we now have the opportunity to give the residents of Southborough an all-inclusive multi-functional community facility (pictured above)..which will put the heart back into our community and will be something that we and future generations can be proud of.”
Meanwhile, the Conservative Councillor Nasir Jamil posted on Facebook after the result: “Apparently the Lib Dem Town Council candidate was away on holiday for part of the election campaign and he didn’t bother to turn up for the count. This by election did not need to be called as we could have co-opted Ian Kinghorn onto the town council by agreement. The Lib Dem’s called the by election which has cost the Town Council £5,000 which would have been better spent on the Southborough Hub. Disgraceful waste of public money…”
Also on Facebook, Labour’s Councillor Jason Reeves responded saying: “I thought that democracy applied to Southborough Town Council, and sometimes that means asking the people who they want to represent them. Whether the candidate is on holiday or not is irrelevant as perhaps they made plans before the election was called…If you are worried about wasting money, then why not focus on the wasteful council spending that you have some say over?”
Trevor Poile of the Liberal Democrats commented: “It is disappointing not to win but our share of the vote held up at just under 40% compared to the by-election in 2015”.