Thursday, 24 June 2021

Tories tighten grip on council

THE Conservatives tightened their grip on power at South Oxfordshire District Council after almost sweeping the

THE Conservatives tightened their grip on power at South Oxfordshire District Council after almost sweeping the board at the election.

They won 33 of the 36 available seats in one of the most one-sided results seen in years.

One seat went to each of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and Henley Residents’ Group.

The Tories were jubilant after the results were revealed at the count at White Horse leisure and tennis centre in Abingdon on Friday.

The overall number of seats on the council has been reduced from 48 following a boundary review.

The results means the Conservatives increased their share of the seats from 60 per cent to 92 per cent, having previously held 29 seats.

In Henley, where the number of seats has bene reduced from four to three, Joan Bland retained her seat for the Tories while party colleague Lorraine Hillier was voted back in having lost her seat at the last elections in 2011.

The third seat went to former mayor Stefan Gawrysiak of Henley Residents’ Group, who beat sitting Conservative Will Hall into fourth place.

Two other sitting councillors, Jeni Wood and Elizabeth Hodgkin, who were among five members of HRG to quit in November and then sat as independents, both failed to be re-elected.

Cllr Hillier, who topped the poll with almost 15 per cent of the vote, said: “I’m really thankful to the people who voted for me. I’m looking forward to working with the team at the district council and being involved on the committees. Last time I sat on the council the Conservatives didn’t have a majority, so this time I’m hoping to be more involved.”

Cllr Bland, who has given up her seat on Henley Town Council, said she was delighted to be elected for a third term on the district council.

“Now I am only doing the district council, there will be more time to focus on the issues at that level,” she said. “We have some very good people stepping up for the town council.”

Cllr Gawrysiak said: “I’m hugely pleased to have been elected. I will work extremely hard for the people of Henley.”

Mr Hall, the son of BBC director general Lord Hall, was clearly upset when the provisional results were announced to the candidates by returning officer David Buckle after a five-and-a-half hour count and he left the room.

He had held a cabinet position on finance. Speaking the next day at the town council election count, Mr Hall said: “I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the cabinet, working with the leader John Cotton and the others.

“It’s disappointing to lose and by about 80 votes but that’s democracy.

“I am proud to have represented the town that I grew up in for four years on the district council but I will find other ways to contribute.

“I am now going to have a month off to recharge my batteries.”

Mrs Wood said: “A lot of very good district councillors lost their seats.

“I may have had a better chance if I had affiliated myself to a party but I had to stay true to myself.”

Former Henley mayor Ken Arlett who stood for UKIP, finished in seventh place out of 15 candidates and said: “I think it’s a great result.”

Henley Mayor Martin Akehurst was elected in the Sonning Common ward for the Conservatives along with party colleague Paul Harrison who retained the seat he has held since 2007.

Cllr Akehurst, who was also one of the five members of HRG to quit and subsequently switched allegiance to the Tories, said: “Paul and I have worked well as a team and clearly it has gone very well. I’m very pleased with the result.”

Both councillors spoke about the importance of the Sonning Common neighbourhood development plan and how they hoped to make the process as smooth as possible.

In the Woodcote and Rotherfield ward, two more Conservative candidates were elected â?? David Nimmo Smith and 24-year-old Charles Bailey.

Cllr Nimmo Smith, who is also a member of Oxfordshire County Council and Henley Town Council, said: “I’ll have a very busy agenda sitting on the three councils but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

“I’ve been on the district council before and I’m familiar with the roles and responsibility.”

He attended the count with his wife Judith, who was a Conservative member of the district council for the old Chiltern Woods ward but had decided not to stand for re-election.

The single seat in Goring ward was won by Conservative Kevin Bulmer who also sits on the county council as well as Goring Parish Council.

The Watlington ward seat was retained by Anna Badcock (Con) who won with almost 66 per cent of the vote. Cllr Badcock, who was previously cabinet member for housing, said she was delighted.

In the Benson and Crowmarsh ward Conservative Felix Bloomfield was re-elected and his party colleague Richard Pullen won the other seat.

Cllr Bloomfield said: “Naturally I’m delighted. I would like to thank the people of Benson, Crowmarsh and the surrounding villages for voting me in again.”

Robert Simister (Con) retained his seat for the Kidmore End and Whitchurch ward.

A number of candidates complained about how long the count took. Results were counted according to how many votes electors had cast and then these were then transferred on to paper before being checked again.

In the Henley ward, 47 ballot papers were spoiled as a result of having too many votes cast. Some candidates said they believed this was due to voters being confused with the town council elections and the reduction in the number of seats from four to three for Henley on the district council.

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