Essex County Council elections: R4U win Saffron Walden and Thaxted from Conservatives but Tories retain control
The Conservatives have held Stansted and Dunmow in Thursday's (May 6) Essex County Council (ECC) election – but lost their Saffron Walden and Thaxted seats to Residents for Uttlesford (R4U).
Overall, the Tories marginally tightened their control of the 75-seat council, which they have held since 1995. The new political make-up is:
Conservatives 52 (+1), Liberal Democrats 8 (–), Labour 5 (-1), Independents 3 (-3), Residents for Uttlesford 2 (+2), Canvey Island Independent Party 2 (+2), Green Party 1 (–), Loughton Residents’ Association 1 (–), Rochford District Residents 1 (+1). There were two vacancies.
There were five-horse races in each of the four ECC divisions in the Uttlesford district, with the Conservatives, R4U, Liberal Democrat, Labour and Green parties all fielding candidates.
While R4U, which controls Uttlesford District Council, made the headline gains, the Green Party locally reflected the national trend by more than doubling its number of votes in Uttlesford, while the Liberal Democrat vote in the district crumbled, dropping by 33%.
Turnout was above average, ranging from 34% in Dunmow to 43% in Saffron Walden.
Voters in the Stansted division re-elected Tory Ray Gooding, who lives in Birchanger, to serve a fifth term; he was first elected in 2005. He is the county council's cabinet member for children’s services and for education and skills.
His comfortable majority in the last election, in 2017, was dented by R4U's candidate, teacher Bianca Donald, down from 606 to 563.
She dislodged Liberal Democrat Ayub Khan – a Stansted resident who represents Stansted South and Birchanger on Uttlesford District Council and is a Stansted parish councillor – from second into third. The Green Party's Debra Gold pipped Labour's Samantha Naik to fourth by 12 votes.
The Conservatives, R4U, Green Party and Labour all saw their vote share increase at the expense of the Lib Dem.
In Saffron Walden, Paul Gadd overturned sitting councillor John Moran's 2017 majority of 267 for the Conservatives into one of 927 for R4U as the division saw a swing of 8.3%.
The Lib Dems, third last time, finished last of the five runners as their vote plummeted from 1,211 four years ago to 546.
Labour's vote held firm to beat the Green Party to third by just nine votes – as they did in Dunmow. Green candidate Edward Gildea increased his party's vote from 246 to 627.
In Thaxted, Martin Foley – who was elected to Uttlesford District Council as a Liberal Democrat in May 2019 before resigning and becoming an Independent – won for R4U.
He beat Tory incumbent Simon Walsh by 94, wiping out his majority of 1,756 from 2017, when R4U did not field a candidate in this division.
The Lib Dems were third, despite their share of the vote dropping by almost 10%, as it did in Saffron Walden. The Green Party pushed Labour down into last place.
In Dunmow, Susan Barker's majority of 1,932 four years ago was reduced to 1,251 by R4U's Geoff Bagnall. Lib Dem Lori Flawn, who was third in 2017, was fifth as Labour edged the Greens for third.
Meanwhile, the Green Party sensationally won Braintree Eastern, where winning candidate Paul Thorogood increased his party's share of the vote from 9.73% four years ago to 49.36%. He won with 2,573 votes, a majority of 593 over the second-placed Conservative.
Voters in Stansted North were electing not only their Essex county councillor and their county police, fire and crime commissioner but also a parish councillor, following the departure last year of Labour's Alfred Miti, prompting a by-election to be called.
It was won by Conservative candidate Paul Davies, with 746 votes. He beat Lib Dem Thomas Smith (608) and Labour’s Sanjukta Ghosh (213). The turnout was 44.2%.
The parish council currently has only 12 of its 14 seats filled. Labour duo Tom Van de Bilt and Jonathan Harding stepped down earlier this year due to pressure of work and moving out of the area respectively. No by-election was called for after Mr Harding resigned. It is not yet known whether one will be called to replace Mr Van de Bilt.
Stansted was one of seven parishes or towns in Uttlesford where by-elections were taking place on Thursday. The others were: Saffron Walden, Clavering, Debden, Newport, Takeley and The Sampfords.
Villagers in Quendon, Rickling and Newport also had a referendum on their Local Neighbourhood Plan to vote on.
The count to elect Essex's police, fire and crime commissioner will take place on Saturday morning.
ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL RESULTS in UTTLESFORD DISTRICT
* Ray Gooding (Con) 2,547 / 37.99% (+0.57%)
Bianca Donald (R4U) 1,984 / 29.59% (+4.19%)
Ayub Khan (Lib Dem) 1,372 / 20.46% (-7.17%)
Debra Gold (Green) 407 / 6.07% (+3.94%)
Samantha Naik (Lab) 395 / 5.89% (+1.3%)
Turnout: 40.32%. Result: Con hold. Swing: 1.81% from Con to R4U
* Susan Barker (Con) 3,534 / 50.73% (-5.17%)
Geoff Bagnall (R4U) 2,283 / 32.77% (+8.74%)
Gerard Darcy (Lab) 422 / 6.06% (-0.52%)
Madeline Radford (Green) 413 / 5.93% (+3.74%)
Lorraine Flawn (Lib Dem) 314 / 4.51% (-2.12%)
Turnout: 34.37%. Result: Con hold. Swing: 6.96% from Con to R4U
Paul Gadd (R4U) 3,195 / 43.94% (+12.17%)
* John Moran (Con) 2,268 / 31.19% (-4.44%)
Andrew Sampson (Lab) 636 / 8.75% (-0.19%)
Edward Gildea (Green) 627 / 8.62% (+5.07%)
Simon Ede (Lib Dem) 546 / 7.51% (-9.97%)
Turnout: 43.17%. Result: R4U gain from Con. Swing: 8.3% from Con to R4U
Martin Foley (R4U) 2,270 / 39.80% (+39.8%)
* Simon Walsh (Con) 2,176 / 38.15% (-19.53%)
Richard Silcock (Lib Dem) 606 / 10.62% (-9.69%)
Paul Allington (Green) 382 / 6.70% (+0.23%)
Alex Young (Lab) 270 / 4.73% (-3.89%)
Turnout: 38.84%. Result: R4U gain from Con. Swing: 29.66% from Con to R4U
* denotes sitting councillor
The big story of the night in Essex was that the Conservatives took control of Harlow District Council from the Labour Party for the first time in nine years.
Labour held on to just one of the 13 seats it was contesting – and that was Chris Vince, the party's candidate for Hertford and Stortford in the December 2019 General Election. Council leader Mark Ingall lost his seat.