Shropshire Star

Telford by-election spoils shared by Conservatives and Labour

The main parties shared the spoils in Telford and Wrekin’s by-elections, with Labour defending one seat but losing the other to the Conservative opposition.

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Jay Gough (Left) With Wrekin Conservative Chairman Emma Thomas

One seat in the Donnington ward was available following the death of sitting councillor Liz Clare last year, while the resignation of incumbent Jane Pinter left a second vacancy in Dawley and Aqueduct.

Labour’s Ian Preece won the Dawley and Aqueduct seat, while Conservative former soldier Jay Gough triumphed in Donnington.

Elsewhere in the borough, Returning Officer David Sidaway apologised after 1,200 people were allowed to vote in a parish council by-election despite not living in the ward. Their votes were later set aside uncounted.

In Donnington, Councillor Gough polled 851 votes, making him the first Conservative elected in the ward’s history. Labour’s Sophie Thompson received 658 votes with Liberal Democrat David Ellams on 66.

The turnout was 33.6 per cent, higher than the 27 per cent taking part in the 2019 local election there.

Councillor Gough said the 2021 campaign “just felt more positive, especially with people recognising the work I’m doing cleaning, tidying and refurbishing the war memorial; people really relate to it”.

He added: “I will still do community projects and community clean-ups and make people proud to be from Donnington.

“A lot of people told me they thought Donnington had been forgotten. I want to help do something about that.”

He said he plans to set up a veterans’ support club to help ex-service people with mental health problems and their families and said he would continue in his role as “Telford Batman”, dressing up as the comic book and movie hero at charity events and to visit sick children.

Councillor Gough left the army due to post-traumatic stress disorder after service in Afghanistan.

“Putting on the costume is my way of hiding from the world, and it’s a bonus that it gives other people a great deal of joy,” he said.

In 2019, Labour candidates won 61 per cent of votes cast in Donnington. Conservative group leader Nigel Dugmore hailed Councillor Gough’s “stunning” win, and said it showed “there are no no-go areas” for their party in Telford and Wrekin.

Councillor Preece, who was already a town councillor and deputy mayor of Great Dawley, said there was a “ceiling” on the work he could do on the lower-tier authority, and said joining the borough council meant he could do more.

“I’m a local lad,” he said. “I went to school in Dawley, and I hung round Aqueduct.

“When I saw my own town struggling, I thought I needed to take the plunge and make a difference.”

Sophie Thompson And Ian Preece

Councillor Preece polled 1,310, ahead of Conservative Kate Barnes, on 1,192, and Liberal Democrat Cathy Salter, with 72 votes.

Labour now holds 35 seats on Telford and Wrekin Council. The increased their tally to 14 with the win in Donnington. Liberal Democrats hold four seats and there is also one independent member.

Ten town and parish council seats were also available in by-elections taking place on the same day.

In one, for the Stirchley ward of Stirchley and Brookside Parish Council, approximately 1,200 voters living in the neighbouring Brookside area were incorrectly allowed to cast a vote. Around 500 did so, and their votes had to be removed by hand before the valid ballot papers could be counted.

Returning officer David Sidaway apologised for the error.

Candidates, agents and activists watching the counting

“A number of voters have been asked to vote in an election where they shouldn’t have been asked,” he said.

Speaking at the count before the votes were verified, he said: “We have been identifying the votes from those people. We will go through the votes, face down, and use the serial numbers to remove them.

“During that process we will not be able to see who those people voted for.”

Conservative candidate Harvey Unwin said: “This is a new one for me. I have been involved in elections as an agent, candidate, and runner for 42 years, and have never seen anything like this.”

Once the valid votes were counted, Stirchley’s two available seats were won by Councillor Unwin and fellow Conservative Tammy Wood, with 308 and 317 votes respectively.