East Herts Council elections: Lib Dems, Labour and Green Party add colour to political spectrum
The Liberal Democrats made the biggest gains in Thursday's East Herts Council elections – virtually doubling their vote from four years ago to cement themselves as the district's second party.
They saw their share of the vote rise from 6.8% in 2015 to 17.8% on Thursday as they won six seats – four in Bishop's Stortford and one in Stanstead Abbotts at the expense of the ruling Conservatives, plus a hold in Watton-at-Stone – despite fielding fewer candidates than Labour and the Green Party.
While nationally Labour had a disappointing local election, in East Herts they won two seats – both in Hertford Sele ward – and saw their share of the vote stabilise at 16.7%.
And the Greens also picked up two seats – in Hertford Bengeo and Ware Trinity – as they increased their vote share from 13.1% to 16.0%.
The Conservatives, who four years ago turned East Herts into a one-party state when they won all 50 seats, now have 40 councillors as they saw their total number of votes drop from 41,177 (49.8%) in 2015 – when local elections were held on the same day as the General Election – to 28,470 (46.5%).
And while in 2015 UKIP polled almost 9,000 votes, on Thursday they fielded only three candidates across the district – all of them in Stortford – who polled 646 votes between them. As a result, their vote share plummeted from 10.9% to 1.0%.
There were also only three Independents this time round: in Sawbridgeworth, Hertford Heath and a Britain First sympathiser in Ware Trinity. Their vote share was down from 2.9% to 2.0%.
Going into this week's poll, the Conservatives had 42 seats. There were four Independents – all of whom had been elected as Tories last time round – and Lib Dem Sophie Bell following her by-election win in Watton-at-Stone last year. Three seats – one in Stortford All Saints, Hertford Heath and Mundens & Cottered – were vacant.
There were no candidates to take on sitting councillors Ian Devonshire in Much Hadham and Ken Crofton in Walkern, both of whom were returned unopposed.
- There will be 22 new members on East Herts Council, comprising four Lib Dems and two Conservatives in Stortford, five Hertford councillors, four in Ware, two Tories in Sawbridgeworth and five in villages
- Men outnumber women more than two to one, with 34 male councillors and 16 females
- There will be a husband and wife on the council: Ruth Buckmaster won one of the three seats in Sawbridgeworth while husband Eric, who vacated his seat in the couple's home town, narrowly held Hunsdon for the Tories
- East Herts Council leader Cllr Linda Haysey held her Hertford Rural South seat with 62.9% of the vote
- East Herts Council chairman Keith Warnell lost his Stortford Meads seat
- Three candidates polled more than 1,000 votes – Peter Ruffles (Con, Hertford Bengeo) 1,171; Ruth Buckmaster (Con, Sawbridgeworth) 1,116; Chris Wilson (Lib Dem, Stortford All Saints) 1,042
- The most comprehensive victory was that of Lib Dem Sophie Bell, who held Watton-at-Stone with 70.9% of the vote against her sole Conservative rival