STOCKTON: Clean sweep of by-election wins for the Conservatives
A CLEAN sweep of victories have been clinched by the Conservatives in a string of Stockton by-elections.
Five empty seats saw campaigns fought in Yarm, Hartburn, Billingham West, Bishopsgarth and Elm Tree, and the Western Parishes on May 6.
And it was the Tories who boosted their numbers on the council from 11 to 16 – gaining two seats held by the Liberal Democrats and an independent.
Niall Innes claimed almost three-quarters of the vote defending the Hartburn ward seat previously held by Stockton South MP Matt Vickers.
Cllr Innes said he was “speechless” at the result and “delighted and honoured” to be elected.
Conservative gains in Bishopsgarth and Elm Tree and Billingham were also greeted by cheers from Tory supporters.
The seat had been held by the Liberal Democrat until the sudden death of Julia Cherrett last year.
Restaurant owner Craig Harker only mustered 165 votes as an independent in the ward – with Conservative Hugo Stratton beating Liberal Democrat Matthew Eves by 325 ballots.
Lee Spence won the closest fought contest of the night in Billingham West.
Former independent councillor Chris Clough fell foul of the six month rule in 2020 leading to the vacancy.
Cllr Spence, 31, held off a challenge from independent Mark Bellerby to chalk another one up for his party.
“It was a bit of an anxious night but the hard work paid off in the end,” he said.
“I’m hoping to put all the effort I can into the ward – I’ve met a lot of the public and I’ve got a lot of ideas.
“I can’t wait to get back in touch with people.”
Former Conservative Andrew Stephenson couldn’t hold onto his western parishes seat as an independent, as former chairman of Cleveland Police Federation Steve Matthews won the seat for the Tories by more than 500 votes.
The 58-year-old Carlton resident said it was a very interesting campaign and was surprised at the majority achieved.
He added: “Was it difficult? My feet are sore.
“I’ve been the chair of the parish council for many years so I’m not a complete novice when it comes to local politics.
“The thing I’m being asked about more and more – especially in the outlying villages – is the internet.
“The broadband service is utterly appalling in the village, and while it may not seem as important as speeding or dog fouling, over the past 18 months more people have been working from home as well as schooling from home.
“The internet is my first priority.”
Dan Fagan romped home in the final result of the night in Yarm despite the best efforts of Labour’s Gail Chandler and Yarm Town Council chairman Alan Gallafant, who stood as an independent.
Cllr Fagan beat the nearest challenger by almost 2,000 votes.
The 50-year-old surgeon was looking forward to “standing up for Yarm in a robust way”.
He added: “One of the key features of the campaign was to show some leadership and strategic vision to try and control some of the over-development problems we’ve seen in the south side of Yarm and Kirklevington with planning developments.
“I’d also like to make more of the natural resources of the area – we’ve got some beautiful river walks and great green belt land around we could certainly make more of.”
It was a tough night for Labour across the North-east.
But the party will still steer Stockton Council through a minority administration – keeping hold of the 24 seats it started with on the night.
Meanwhile, all three authority by-elections in Redcar and Cleveland Council were defended by the Tories in Longbeck, Hutton, and Guisborough.
Stockton Council results:
Yarm – CON HOLD
Tony Bell-Berry – Ind – 149
Gail Chandler – Lab – 644
Dan Fagan – Con – 2,757*
Alan Gallafant – Ind – 759
Chris Johnson – Ind – 59
Adam Kearney – Lib Dems – 76
Turnout – 52%
Western Parishes – CON HOLD
Andrew Stephenson – Independent – 136
Stephen Thompson – Labour – 362
Steve Matthews – Conservative – 928*
Turnout – 49.7%
Billingham West – CON GAIN (from Ind)
Mark Bellerby – Ind – 791
Giles Harris – Ind – 4
Paul Henderson – Ind – 32
Paul Jenkins – Lab – 438
John McDermottroe – Reform UK – 53
Raymond Penn – Lib Dem – 7
Lee Spence – Con – 863*
Turnout – 49.3%
Bishopsgarth and Elm Tree – CON GAIN (from Lib Dem)
Matthew Eves – Lib Dem – 730
Craig Harker – Ind – 165
Ben Lamb – Lab – 386
Hugo Stratton – Con – 1,055*
Turnout – 47.6%
Hartburn ward – CON HOLD
Michael Elliot – Reform UK – 112
Shakeel Hussain – Labour – 620
Niall Innes – Conservative – 1,999*
Turnout – 53.2%
Words: Alex Metcalfe, Local Democracy Reporter
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