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Tories’ loss is Labour, independent and Green gain at Stafford Borough Council

Stafford Borough Council’s blue hue has been diluted following this week’s elections – with red and green streaks.

The controlling Conservative group had the lion’s share of the authority’s 40 seats at the start of May – 30 compared to Labour’s six, with four independent members completing the line up.

But following this week’s elections the Conservatives are down to 22 seats, after Labour took four and another one went to the Green Party.

Tory Isabella Davies lost her seat in Doxey and Castletown to Tony Pearce, marking a return of the Green Party to Stafford Borough Council after four years’ absence.

Councillor Pearce, who previously served as a Labour councillor several years ago, said: It’s amazing. I feel so honoured that so many people have put their trust in me and I will work hard.

“One of the first things I am going to be pushing for is declaration of a climate emergency.”

Labour took back two seats in Highfields and Western Downs it lost in a 2017 by-election and both seats in Littleworth, that were previously occupied by Conservative Mary Jennings and ex Labour-member Rowan Draper, who ran as an independent candidate this time.

And in Stone the Tories took battering when all four of their seats were snapped up by independent candidates.

Council leader Patrick Farrington said it was a disappointment to lose the Stone seats following the work carried out by the Conservative-led authority to improve leisure facilities in the town in recent years – including the opening of a new centre in Westbridge Park.

He added: “We have lost some excellent councillors. But I’m very pleased our votes held up everywhere else, considering the national picture.”

The ongoing Brexit saga – and people’s frustration on both sides of the debate – was a talking point in Stafford Borough as candidates battled to gain votes.

But in Stone’s Walton ward the controversial proposed sell-off of green space at Tilling Drive was a hotter topic among voters, Councillor Jill Hood said.

The independent borough councillor kept her seat. Speaking on Friday she said: “In Pirehill yesterday not a person mentioned Brexit to me. They talked about Tilling Drive and the loss of green space.”

There will also be changes at the top table because two former cabinet members – Frank Finlay and Ken Williamson, did not stand for re-election.

But the new council line-up will not see the return of its former leader, Mike Heenan, however, who stood down in 2015 but threw his hat into the ring once more to contest Stafford’s Manor ward.

Councillor Farrington moved closer to home ward-wise, from the Baswich ward to Gnosall and Woodseaves.

And Labour group leader Aidan Godfrey kept hold of his seat in the Common ward. He said: “The Labour Party in Stafford have had a good day.

“We have held onto the seats we already had and gained seats. People have put trust in us and we will be able to use that for the benefit of people in the borough.”

In total 100 people put themselves forward as candidates this year.

The Tories constested all but one ward – Forebridge – which was kept by independent Councillor Chris Baron. Labour fielded candidates in 21 out of 23 wards, staying out of Barlaston and Swynnerton and Oulton.

The two Swynnerton and Oulton seats attracted just two candidates – Roy James and James Nixon – and so the pair were elected uncontested last month without a single vote needing to be cast.

UKIP set their sights on 11 wards and five wards were contested by the Green Party. But nominations for William Stanfield and Peter Bradshaw – UKIP candidates who were due to contest two seats in Stafford’s Manor ward – were declared invalid last month by the returning office because the papers were not filled out correctly.

There was also one Liberal Democrat across the borough and independent candidates in six wards.

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