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Tories back in control of Torbay Council

Friday, 7 June 2024 08:09

By Guy Henderson - Local Democracy Reporter

Hazel Foster celebrates with Conservative colleagues (image courtesy: Guy Henderson/Radio Exe)

They have casting vote

Conservative Hazel Foster has won a crucial Torbay by-election to give her party back control of the bay’s council by just nine votes after two recounts,

Eighteen Tory councillors now match the 18 in opposition, but they have a casting vote in the event of a tie on any issue in the hands of the Conservative mayor.

Mrs Foster, whose husband is Torbay Tory candidate Kevin Foster, who up until parliament was dissolved last month was the bay’s MP, won in Wellswood. The ward has not elected anything other than Conservative councillors for more than a quarter of a century.

But Liberal Democrat Peter Fenton got within nine votes of causing the biggest upset in years.

The votes had to be counted three times in order to get to the final tally.

Reform UK’s Mike Lister finished third, ahead of Labour’s Jonathan Chant-Stevens, Green Jenny Giel and Paul Moor of the Workers Party GB.

Afterwards Cllr Foster said: “I’m really pleased with the result. I’ve been listening to what residents have to say, and they want somebody who is going to fight their corner.”

Asked if the narrow margin meant it was a victory that felt more like a defeat, she said: “Not at all. That’s first past the post. It could have been the other way round.”

And she said she was looking forward to returning the council, having lost her seat in St Marychurch a year ago

“There’s money to be spent on the town centres, and it needs somebody with a bit of push and bit of nagging – I’m good at nagging – to make sure things get done,” she said.

Mr Fenton said: “It was always going to be an extremely challenging election. The Wellswood seat has always been true blue, but we have proved that there are people in Wellswood willing to support a good candidate.

“I really appreciate those 929 people who supported me. I’m disheartened for them, but this is a massive fillip for the Liberal Democrats for the general election.”

Returning the Conservative candidate has left the council exactly tied, meaning the mayor will have a casting vote in the event of the council being split on any issue.

No mayor has yet been elected, following a chaotic council meeting last month at which the Conservatives withdrew their support for Liberal Democrat Swithin long, having given it earlier in the year.

The election of a mayor is now likely to involve a lengthy and complicated procedural wrangle.



Votes cast 2,224. Turnout 38.4 per cent

Jonathan Chant-Stevens (Labour) 117 votes

Peter Fenton (Liberal Democrat) 929

Hazel Foster (Conservative) 938

Jenny Giel (Green) 34

Mike Lister (Reform) 188

Paul Moor (Workers Party GB) 11.


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