Voters Revolt Over Conservative Council’s Plans for £80 million Debt

New doubts have been placed on the Conservative Council’s plans to take out a huge loan to build a new civic centre and theatre in Tunbridge Wells after two defeats for the Party in Thursday’s Borough Council elections.

While the Southborough votes followed usual trends, Nick Pope (pictured below) of the newly formed Tunbridge Wells Alliance Party stole the limelight by defeating his Conservative opponent in Park Ward.

Nick Pope crop

Mr Pope had been a vocal opponent of the plan approved by the Council last December to take out a £77million loan to build a brand new Town Hall and Theatre.

The loan would represent £ 1,600 of new debt for every household in Tunbridge Wells and mean that the council tax will have to absorb £60 per household per year in interest payments on the loan.

One of Southborough North’s Conservative Borough Councillors, Joe Simmons, held an informal referendum in October in which 80 per cent of voters were against the scheme.

Mr Simmons (pictured below) voted against his own party’s Civic Centre plans in December and held onto his seat in Thursday’s election with 51% of the vote in Southborough North.

Simmons crop

Meanwhile in the Southborough and High Brooms ward, Labour’s Alain Lewis (pictured below) was victorious with 62% of the vote.

A Lewis crop

The Conservatives’ second setback came in St John’s ward where Nasir Jamil dropped into third place, with victory for the Liberal Democrats’ Mark Ellis who took 47% of the vote.


Joe Simmons Conservative 614 51% Elected
Trevor  Poile Lib Dem 354 29% Not elected
Martin Betts Labour 247 20% Not elected


Alain Lewis Labour 1094 62% Elected
Harry  Allen Conservative 455 26% Not elected
Marguerita Morton Lib Dem 211 12% Not elected


Nick Pope Tunbridge Wells Alliance 773 34% Elected
Catherine Rankin Conservative 630 28% Not elected
Rachel  Sadler Lib Dem 533 23% Not elected
Hugo Pound Labour 335 15% Not elected


Mark  Ellis Lib Dem 1038 47% Elected
Bjorn Simpole Labour 599 27% Not elected
Nasir Jamil Conservative 575 26% Not elected

The new make up of the 48 member Borough Council would appear to be:
Conservative 41 (down 2)
Lib Democrat 4 (up 1)
Labour 2 (unchanged)
Tunbridge Wells Alliance 1 (up 1)

Eleven Conservative Councillors failed to support their own party’s Civic Centre/Theatre plans when they were voted on last December.

The newly-formed group opposed to the Civic Centre loan, Tunbridge Wells Alliance, failed to win the six other Borough Council seats they contested, although the group did win significant shares of the vote (between 15% and 32%).

The Conservatives came close to a third defeat when in BROADWATER they won by just 8 votes after a recount. Result below:

Chris Woodward Conservative 479 39% Elected
Christoper  Hall Lib Dem 471 39% Not elected
Louise Reid Labour 213 17% Not elected
Alan Elder-Brown UKIP 59 5% Not elected