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By-election will test Torbay's balance of power

Ballot box (Image courtesy: Element5 Digital/Unsplash)

The death of Councillor Patrick Joyce will almost certainly mean a poll in Wellswood

Torbay Council’s delicate balance of power is likely to be tested again with a by-election.

Cllr Patrick Joyce's death at the weekend will almost certainly mean a poll in Torquay’s Wellswood ward.

Mr Joyce was elected as a Conservative last May, but later left the party to form the Prosper Torbay group along with fellow Conservative Katya Maddison, who was elected last year to represent Shiphay.

They felt they would better represent residents outside the Conservative group.

Cllr Maddison described Cllr Joyce as someone who wanted to help bring about change in the bay. His recent health breakdown meant he could not do everything he might have hoped to do, she said.

Council leader David Thomas (Con, Preston) added: “He was a natural in his role from his very first day in the job.”

As a mark of respect, the flag at Torquay Town Hall is flying at half-mast until sunset on the day of his funeral.

Immediately after last May's elections, the Conservatives held overall control of Torbay Council, having taken it from the previous Liberal Democrat/ Independent coalition.

They had 19 of the 36 council seats last summer, with the coalition holding the other 17 between them.

But the creation of the Prosper Torbay group left the Tories with just 17 seats, the same as the coalition. Cllrs Joyce and Maddison held the balance of power, and sat with the 17 coalition members on the benches opposite the now-minority Conservative administration.

The law says that a by-election will now be called if it is requested by people registered to vote in the area. If that happens, it will be held within 35 working days.

If the Conservatives win back the seat left vacant by the death of Cllr Joyce, they will have 18 members on the council, the same as the number held by the coalition and Prosper Torbay combined.

If the seat is won by a Liberal Democrat or an Independent candidate, that would give the coalition 18 seats to the Conservatives’ 17 and Prosper Torbay’s one.

If that happened, it would mean the coalition regaining control of the council.

If another Prosper Torbay candidate wins the seat, the situation will be as it was when Cllr Joyce was on the council.

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