Labour Celebrate Town Council By-election victory

The Labour Party Candidate won 51% of the vote in Thursday’s by-election, taking the seat from the Conservatives, but the Conservatives will retain a clear majority on Southborough Town Council.

The by-election was held in the Council ward covering High Brooms and East Southborough and followed the surprise resignation of the Conservative, Glenn Lester, who had been one of the two key councillors driving forward the scheme to demolish the Royal Victoria Hall Theatre and replace it with the Southborough Hub.

The victorious Labour candidate, Alain Lewis (pictured below), told Southborough News:  “I am grateful for the support of over 50% of people who voted in Southborough and High Brooms Ward who have said resoundingly that they want a local candidate to represent them on their Town Council.”

A Lewis cropMr Lewis continued: “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 the Ridgewaye Fields to be given Village Green status to ensure that they are never built on again.’

Of the 3,106 people on the electoral role, 643 voters cast their ballot which calculates as a turnout of 21 %. This was 35 more people voting than in a similar poll in 2011.

The full votes are in the table below, indicating that Labour managed to boost its supporters by 76 per cent compared with the similar poll in 2011 when Glenn Lester joined the Town Council.

votes % votes %
Lab Alain Lewis 330 51 187 31
Con Judith Symes 249 39 238 39
Lib Dem Allen Lear 64 10 25 4
UKIP Didn’t stand 0 0 108 18
Independent Didn’t stand 0 0 49 8
Total voters 643 607

NB A different set of candidates stood between 2011 and 2017 and the % figure indicates the support for each party, with Labour increasing its share from 31% to 51% over the six years.

The party representation in the Town Council is now Conservative 11, Labour 6 and  Liberal Democrat 1. The Hub scheme brings together resources and land from three Councils (Kent County Council, Southborough Town Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council) which are all run by the Conservatives.

The Conservative Cllr Peter Oakford, who lives in Pennington Road, remains a strong advocate of the Hub scheme and his hopes for the development are outlined in previous Southborough News posts, including an extended recorded interview with him from November 2016. Click here:

Liberal Democrat Candidate Wants Clean Up of Our “Toxic Air”

The Liberal Democrat candidate for tomorrow’s by-election (7th September) in High Brooms and east Southborough is arguing that the local environment urgently needs to be improved.

In a statement to Southborough News, candidate Allen Lear (below) said: “I support the Lib Dem vision to clean up the toxic air pollution in Tunbridge Wells, through measures such as 20mph zones and investment in active transport.”

Allen crop

The Lib Dem Party statement said: “Allen Lear rings a wealth of commercial experience, having run public houses and a petrol station franchise. He is now a self-employed childminder, living in Ruscombe Close, Southborough.”

The statement continued: “If elected, Allen will fight for transparency and accountability for the Southborough Hub  development. He believes the development should deliver affordable housing and have a minimal impact on the already congested roads around the site.”

Meanwhile, Southborough News has not managed to obtain any further response from the Conservative candidate about criticism from Labour that she does not live in the Southborough Town Council area.

However, some comments on social media suggest the Conservative candidate, Judith Symes, has lived in Tunbridge Wells since childhood and knows the area well. It is also understood she is a former candidate for a seat at Westminster and has been involved in politics for many years.

The Labour candidate, Alain Lewis, made an extensive statement in an article on this blog last weekend (see below).

Labour insists: “Southborough Town Councillors Should Live in the Town”

The Labour candidate in the by-election for the vacant seat on Southborough Town Council has said he regrets the Conservative Party’s decision to put up a by-election candidate who doesn’t live in the Town Council area.

In a statement on Saturday to Southborough News, Labour’s Alain Lewis (pictured below) said: ” I genuinely believe that town councillors should live and pay taxes in the town they represent.”  Mr Lewis also criticised the Conservative’s Southborough Hub development scheme.


The by-election takes place on Thursday 7th September in a seat left vacant by the unexpected resignation of the Conservative, Glenn Lester, (below) who had been one of the key supporters of the Southborough Hub scheme, which is due to offer a new library, medical centre and community hall – all funded by housing development on the Ridgewaye playing fields.  The Hub replaces the now demolished Royal Victoria Hall Theatre.


The election leaflet for the Conservative candidate, Judith Symes, referred to a “big investment” underway to build the community Hub.  It continued: “This brings with it new opportunities for Southborough and High Brooms.”

The Conservative majority on the Town Council is not at risk, but the vote will inevitably be seen as a test of how well the people of Southborough and High Brooms think the Hub plans have been managed by the Conservative Party.

Three candidates are standing. They are:
Allen LEAR of the Liberal Democrats of 8 Ruscombe Close, Southborough TN4 0SG
Alain LEWIS of the Labour Party of 25 Holden Park Road, Southborough TN4 0ER
Judith SYMES of the Conservatives who lives at 94 Upper Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2EU

Southborough News asked all 3 candidates for statements by Saturday lunchtime but only Labour had responded by the deadline with a statement.

Mr Lewis’s statement continues:
“I have lived in Southborough with my wife for over 12 years and during this time have shown my commitment to the area by serving as a town and borough councillor. I have fought to preserve our heritage and green spaces and to develop our town centre by involving local residents who will be using and paying for its facilities.”

Mr Lewis also discussed the Hub:
” I have opposed the way that the Hub has been developed by a small group of Conservative councillors acting in secret, refusing to reveal the financial details of the project, and happy to use a part of Ridgewaye fields for building flats. If elected, together with my Labour colleagues, I will work for a council that is open in the way it deals with the public and that ensures our town remains a place that future generations will love to live in.”

The current mix of councillors in the Southborough and High Brooms Town Council area is Conservative 11, Labour 5, Liberal Democrat 1, Vacant 1.

Judith Symes election leaflet also states: “I am an experienced politician.  I have a background in senior management, with many years working across sectors, with people from all “walks of life””.

There was some comment in the past week on the Southborough Forum Facebook page about the fact that the Conservative candidate lived just outside High Brooms.  The Chairman of the Southborough Society, Michael Howes, said he had been asked to stand by the Conservatives but declined.

When asked why he declined to stand, Mr Howes stated on Facebook: “Too busy and why should I give my time to be shot down by outspoken idiots?”