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By-election could see a hung council
POLITICAL parties have started campaigning in a crucial by-election triggered by the sudden death of Coun Doreen Dart.
The poll on November 15 to choose a replacement third councillor in the Blunsdon and Highworth ward is important because if the Conservatives lose the seat the council will be officially hung, as no one party will have more members than the others combined.
The candidates are Labour’s Phil Beaumont, Conservative Steve Weisinger, Lib Dem Cath Smith, Andrew Day for the Green Party and John Lenton for the UK Independence Party.
The election is expected to be a showdown between Labour and the Conservatives. The Tories won all three seats at May’s all-out elections, with Labour getting the second most votes overall, and the Greens narrowly beating the Lib Dems.
Turnout at by-elections is normally low but is expected to be slightly higher in November as the election falls on the same day as the countywide police and crime commissioner election, so there will be extra incentive to go to a polling station or register for a postal vote.
Council leader Rod Bluh, said: “The election is important. It has come about because of the loss of Doreen Dart and our core ambition is to win it to maintain the majority, so it’s quite a crucial by-election for us.
“But we’re fighting on our record and it’s as simple as that. We completely leafleted on Saturday, so we’re ahead of the game really.
“We aren’t complacent. We would hope to hold it but with by-elections you can never take anything for granted.
“We’ve got a very well-known candidate standing who has been the mayor of Highworth.”
Coun Stan Pajak, Lib Dem group leader, said: “I think in this particular ward it should be a straight fight between Labour and the Conservatives.
“The thing with by-elections is they give people an opportunity to state something so whether they vote on national lines or local lines is unknown.”
Coun Jim Grant, Labour group leader, said: “I’m really pleased that the Blunsdon and Highworth Labour Party chose Phil Beaumont to be its candidate in the forthcoming Blunsdon and Highworth By-Election.
“Phil has lived in Highworth for over 35 years and is an enthusiastic governor of Warneford School and is deputy mayor of Highworth Town Council.
“Labour’s campaign focus will be two-pronged. Firstly, we want to make Highworth residents aware that this is the first opportunity in ten years to end the Conservatives reign in charge of Swindon.
“And we will be very much fighting on local issues, like campaigning against the current proposals for a sports hub on Highworth Rec, combating speeding in the local area and preserving Blunsdon and Highworth’s identity by creating a buffer zone between their areas and the rest of Swindon.”