DCSIMG

Worthing election - the results, reactions and cakes

A DAY of hard campaigning in the sunshine for all candidates last Thursday ended with the Liberal Democrats clawing back some of the losses from their 2004 ousting from power.

They won four seats from the Tories, regaining control of Northbrook and Gaisford and taking both Durrington seats.

The sole Tory gain, on a night which ended seven-all across the contested seats, was Central ward where Paul Yallop narrowly edged out Janet Goldsbrough-Jones.

It was also a good night for the Greens, with a series of healthy returns consolidating the party's position as third in the town.

The election saw the triumphant return of Sheila Player to the Town Hall, despite what she claimed was a campaign of "misinformation" against her.

Tory leader Keith Mercer said it was "a good thing for democracy" that seats were being contested by more than two parties.

He conceded the night had not gone well when he said the council was "not going to be deflected by this election" but reiterated that power remained in blue hands.

He said: "We still have a majority. We are going to continue with the master plan and the vision for Worthing."

A beaming Bob Smytherman congratulated his Lib Dem team and sounded a warning to the Tories, saying: "We have gone from a position of being a small minority group to being in a position of real influence over this council."

Green leader Lucielle Colkett said the party was going "from strength to strength" and promised it would return to fight next year.

Philip Ruddock, UKIP leader, said it was hard for smaller parties to make a difference but promised his party would fight again.

Ed Miller, Labour party spokesman, said: "We knew the elections would be difficult for Labour all over the country, and Worthing is one of the hardest areas for us.

"We were disappointed but not surprised. We'll keep standing candidates in the town and give people the opportunity to vote for us."

COUNCIL PROBE INTO 'SPOILT' BALLOT PAPERS

WORTHING COUNCIL has launched an urgent investigation after 452 ballot papers were spoiled in a single ward at the local elections.

Hundreds of voting papers in Offington were declared void because they did not have the official marks punched on - but officials say the mistake did not affect the outcome in the hotly-contested seat.

Conservative favourite Reg Green beat Norah Fisher, the Lib Dem challenger to his seat, by 975 votes and the spoiled slips were split evenly.

Alan Smith, the council's returning officer, said: "We had 434 papers that did not have official marks punched on. We took advice from the Electoral Commission and they were adamant we had to consider them as rejected ballot papers."

The average figure of spoiled votes at other polling stations around Worthing was around 30.

Mr Smith added: "We sorted between those for Fisher and for Green and they were coming out the same. If all of those ballot papers had been for Fisher, it would not have changed the vote so the effect of the vote has not been altered in anyway.

"But 434 without official marks is something we will need to look into and make sure that it doesn't happen again."

Mr Green, who collected 1,478 votes and was elected for the fourth time running, called for lessons to be learned from the incident to prevent a repeat of what happened.

He said: "There is going to be an inquiry. We don't know what really happened although it appears to be something to do with stamping. It was a whole box but it wasn't discovered until the end of the day.

Mr Green, "absolutely ecstatic" about the win, added: "I plan to take this further although I have won by a handsome majority."

IS DIANE THE YOUNGEST WOMAN COUNCILLOR EVER?

DIANE Jones could be Worthing's youngest ever female councillor after being elected to represent Northbrook ward.

The young Lib Dem is just 22 years old - and she immediately made improved facilities for young people a priority.

"I want to do the best for the people of Northbrook", said Diane. "I want to better it. I want there to be more for the children of Northbrook and I want to give young people more activities."

Raised in Worthing, Diane went to Elm Grove First School, West Park Middle School and Durrington High School before going to college in Lancing.

She is married to Merlin, who stood unsuccessfully in 2004 for the Lib Dems, and the couple have a two-year-old son, Harley.

She said her interest in politics was long-standing, adding "It's something I've always wanted to be involved in. I've always wanted the chance.

"I've got family and friends in Northbrook, the ward is quite important to me."

She paid tribute to opposing candidate Mark O'Keeffe for his good humour as they canvassed head-to-head in the final days and confessed the result was an unexpected surprise.

She said: "All day it has been neck and neck. I wasn't expecting the outcome. I was hoping for it but not expecting it."

Lib Dem leader Bob Smytherman paid tribute to his new councillor and said he was "delighted" to have her on board.

He said: "She deserves every bit of it. She has worked and worked and worked.

"I told her it was a seat we needed to win and she has worked her socks off."

COUNCILLOR 'APPALLED' AT APATHY

LIB DEM Keith Sunderland took one of two Durrington seats up for grabs but said he was appalled at the number of people voting.

On his 805 winning votes Mr Sunderland said: "I am very pleased. I have been very impressed with the support from John Lovell who ran the campaign very well and worked us extremely hard.

"People seem to have taken notice of the fact that I have been around for quite a while and now it all begins."

Despite his happiness with the result Mr Sunderland added: "I really believe we need to get the turn out up at local government elections. I have been appalled at the number of people voting. It has been extremely low and it makes a mockery of the democratic system and as politicians we have to change things. It's apathy and I think almost anger with politics."

Mr Sunderland has welcomed the introduction of police community support officers to tackle law and order in Durrington.

He said: "I have been in certain parts of Durrington and have been stunned by despair in certain areas and I think we need to give them hope. That is not just down to the Lib Dems it is down to the whole council to get its act together.

"Graffiti and anti-social behaviour is not going to disappear overnight. We need to give people the sense that they can change things."

PLAYER BACK IN THE TOWN HALL

SHEILA Player was delighted to claw back her seat despite residents allegedly being given "misinformation" about her.

Miss Player has spoke of the alleged tactics that prompted interim chief executive Ian Lowrie to send a letter banning discussion of the Sherylgate affair.

"It was a personal campaign and a very vicious campaign" said Miss Player.

"Clearly residents have been given a lot of misinformation. I was being accused of costing the council hundreds of thousands of pounds over the Sherylgate affair which wasn't true.

"It cost 8,000 for my part of the defence against the case of sex discrimination."

Miss Player polled 1,126 votes to win back her Broadwater seat after two years away from the local political arena.

She said: "The campaign has been an absolute pleasure because I quite liked it out there with the residents. We have done six weeks of campaigning to 1,900 doors and delivered leaflets."

Asked whether this election spelt a turning point for Worthing Council to move on from the Sheryl Grady pay-off scandal, Miss Player replied: "I hope so. It does need to move forward but I do believe the residents should know what the cost was.

"It is not doing the council any good to keep it running on. If the cost had just been published that would have been the end of it.

"It has left a nasty taste in our mouths. I believe in open government."

ELECTION NOTEBOOK by Michael Stoddard

In Central Ward, Worthing

AS EAGER crowds flocked to the Sidney Walter Centre in Worthing you knew something special was in store.

The signs had been erected the ballot boxes set-up and rosettes tightly pinned.

But it wasn't just the election for Worthing Central stirring the emotions. For some, it was thought of grabbing one of Mrs Foote's famous bread puddings before they all ran out.

The community hub in Sussex Road became a polling station for the day and cook Sue Foote was delighted with the sudden rush to her normally quiet-ish cake counter.

As for the voting booths, they were not quite as popular.

It was the first time there has been an extra two hours for voting in local elections but it seemed to make little difference.

Presiding officer Chris Cook said: "The general election usually draws a bit more activity but today has been very low key."

The appearance of two police community support officers quickly sparked excitement among clerks and parties representatives, but it soon became clear they were merely checking proceedings.

Which made you wonder what mischief Auntie Mavis could be getting up to while marking her cross.

Doreen Read, 54, is the central administrator at the centre. She said: "There's no accountability of local parties. If I had more time I would probably stand as an independent candidate. Local parties may say I'm mad but at least you would know which individual made the decisions rather than hide behind a party."

The Sompting resident says she's not had a single visit from candidates in the run-up and feels this is why many people will vote according to national events.

As the Conservatives sent in their big guns, a lunchtime visit from candidate Paul Yallop, it still couldn't prise the hoards away from Mrs Foote's cakes.

He said: "This is the first time I've stood in an election and I'm hopeful we can claim the seat from the Liberal Democrats. (they did).

Even the weather was against voters as Mr Yallop cursed the hot and sunny conditions. "It might sound strange but I would like it to rain. Conservatives are normally a very hardy bunch" he said.

 
 
 

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