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Lib Dems gain second successive Shropshire Tory council seat

February 24, 2011 11:19 AM

Shropshire's ruling Conservatives are reeling after the Liberal Democrats won a second successive county council seat from them at a byelection.

Liberal Democrat Andrew Bannerman seized the Quarry and Coton Hill Division of Shropshire Council with an 8.9% swing from the Conservatives. An actor and writer and longstanding transport campaigner, Cllr Bannerman won the election last week in the division which covers most of Shrewsbury's historic town centre with 356 votes (41.8%).

The Conservatives, who beat Andrew by 73 votes in 2009, slumped to 268 (31.5%). Labour, who did not stand in 2009, fought hard but still finished third with 197 votes (23.1%). An independent candidate took 30 votes (3.5%).

The victory is the second successive Liberal Democrat byelection win over Shropshire Conservatives since the general election. Last July, Liberal Democrat farmer Richard Huffer gained the very rural Clee Division.

The most recent byelection was held just days after the Tory administration on Shropshire Council announced huge cuts including the closure of eight primary schools and the Wakeman secondary school serving Shrewsbury town centre.

Andrew Bannerman attended his first group meeting as a county councillor on Monday. He said: "I'm delighted to have been elected to serve as councillor in a town I care passionately about. I want to avoid the slogans and get down to the nitty gritty of whats happening to our town.

"Labour have tried to suggest that we are party to the way Shropshire Council are making these cuts. This is rubbish.

"A lot of these decisions are being made in a way that is very painful to Shropshire people and we do not agree, we oppose it. Decisions are being made by the Conservative leaders in the Council and presented as a fait accompli with no alternative. There is a LIberal Democrat alternative in Shropshire and thats what people have voted for."

Cllr Heather Kidd, who was byelection agent, said: "This is a massive boost to our campaign to make Shropshire Conservatives think again about their plans to axe schools and vital local services. Savings have to be made but not in this crude way without consulting people.

"Andrew has lived in Coton Hill and the town centre for 40 years and has a deserved reputation as a local campaigner. But we are delighted by the swing to the Liberal Democrats in this election despite the decision by Labour to stand this time."

Shropshire Council's opposition leader, Lib Dem Cllr Nigel Hartin said: "This is an important victory after a very hard fought campaign at a time when Shropshire Council is facing serious challenges.

"Voters want to be consulted and to see essential services protected. They did not choose Labour's simple slogans. Once again as in the Clee byelection last year, voters decided to support the Liberal Democrats' community-based approach."

Shrewsbury Parliamentary Spokesman Dr Charles West said: "This is another great result for the Liberal Democrats in Shrewsbury.

"Andrew Bannerman cares passionately for the town and has campaigned on traffic issues, tourism and for better facilities for young people not just in this election but for decades. He is just the sort of councillor we need to see working for the local community and we are delighted to see that his contribution has been recognised."

Turnout in the election was 30.47%.