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Labour narrowly hold Exeter council seat

Friday, October 25th, 2019 8:09am

By Daniel Clark, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Councillor Greg Sheldon

Their candidate won in Heavitree and Whipton by just 40 votes

Labour narrowly held onto the Heavitree and Whipton seat on Devon County Council with a slim 40 vote majority.

Cllr Greg Sheldon was elected to the council for Labour after winning a by-election on Thursday night.

He secured 1,032 votes, just 40 more than Conservative candidate John Harvey who came second.

Rowena Squires for the Liberal Democrats came third on 575 votes, with Lizzie Woodman for the Green Party getting 563 votes and Frankie Rufolo of the For Britain Movement getting 70. Turnout was 31 per cent.

Despite holding onto the seat, Labour’s vote share of 32 per cent was down 19 per cent on 2017 when Emma Brennan won the seat and their majority has been cut from over 800 to just 40.

The Conservatives also saw their vote share drop compared with 2017, while both the Lib Dems and the Greens saw their share of the vote rise by 11 per cent.

The result means that Labour once again are the official opposition on the County Council, with seven councillors, although the 60 strong authority is dominated by the 42 Conservative members.

Speaking after his win, Cllr Sheldon said it was a relief to have held the seat. He said: “It is closer than I would have liked but a win is a win. Part of it been is that I have been a councillor for Heavitree since 2011. I have lived in the area almost all my life so I am known in the area so that does help. I had a job in town and there is at least one person who has voted for me who isn’t a natural Labour supporter who said that they would vote for me because they know I am a good man.

“What I do for the Labour group on the city council is crunch numbers. I am a sad anorak, I know, but I crunch the numbers. In the current climate, financial balance is critical for any council and I will be putting a lot of effort into that.  But as people raise issues with me, I will be dealing with them, and as you can imagine, quite a few have come in over the last month or so, so I will quite busy for some time to come.”

Asked why he thought the vote share was down he said: “It is so difficult to say. It’s a 31 per cent turnout, not a 42 per cent. People will always say down to national trends, but I have been involved in by-elections before, not as a candidate, but weird things happen. I don’t think you can put it down to a single issue, but we will try and talk to people to find out why they didn’t vote for us over the coming months and what made them make that decision.”

Cllr Sheldon has lived in the Heavitree and Whipton area since he was eleven. He has now retired from a career in banking for a well-known national company.

He has been a member of the city council since 1996, and in 2011 was elected as Labours first City Councillor for Heavitree since the 1930s.

On the city council, he chairs the Corporate Services Committee, and serves on the Audit and Governance Committee

The turnout was 31 per cent, down on the 42 per cent in May 2017.

THE RESULT 

  • John Harvey (Conservatives) – 992 (30.7% – down 1%)
  • Frankie Rufolo (For Britain Movement) – 70 – (2.2% – did not stand in 201)
  • Greg Sheldon (Labour) – 1032 – (31.9% – down 19%)
  • Rowena Squires (Liberal Democrats) – 576 – (17.8% – up 11%)
  • Lizzie Woodman (Green) – 563 – (17.4% – up 11%)

The current composition of  Devon County Council is now:

  • Conservatives – 42
  • Labour – 7
  • Liberal Democrats – 6
  • Independent – 2
  • Green Party – 1
  • East Devon Alliance – 1
  • Non-aligned Liberal – 1

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