Council leader among scalps as Conservatives suffer big losses in Tunbridge Wells

Mr Jukes lost his Speldhurst and Bidborough seat, which he has held since 2007, to Tunbridge Wells Alliance’s Lucy Willis.

The now former leader to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council was not the only cabinet member to lose a seat as the borough election results were announced today [Friday].

The cabinet member for Economic Development and Communication, Tracy Moore, also lost in Park ward, despite there being two seats up for election, due to the standing down of Conservative Councillor Peter Bulman.

Tunbridge Wells Alliance, the party set up to oppose the council’s £90million Calverley Square project took both seats.

Both cabinet members said they were ‘disappointed’ after Returning Officer William Benson announced the results in a packed Assembly Hall this afternoon [Friday].

While the Conservatives retain control of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, as only a third of the council’s 48 seats were being contested, it was still a disastrous day for the party.

Mr Jukes admitted that both the national Brexit crisis, as well as the council’s theatre and civic centre project were the two factors for the shock results.

He said: “The people have spoken. It wasn’t expected but then again it wasn’t a surprise.

“It wasn’t just what is happening locally with the theatre but also what is happening nationally with Brexit.

“To say, I’m disappointed is an understatement. We have lost some good councillors, and with so many long term projects in front of us, I’m worried this will have a devastating effect on the economic growth for Tunbridge Wells.”

It was a good day for Tunbridge Wells Alliance, who picked up five seats. While the Liberal Democrats have also won five seats from the Conservatives.

The Conservatives managed to hold onto five seats, while Independent Rodney Atkins took one of the seats up for grabs in Paddock Wood East. The incumbent, Sarah Hamilton, also keeps a seat in the council chamber as there was a by-election in the ward.

In total, 18 seats in 16 wards were contested.

The Labour Party managed to take Sherwood, and Southborough & High Brooms from the Conservatives.

Liberal Democrat leader, Ben Chapelard, commenting on the results, said: “This result shows that we are now the alternative party across Tunbridge Wells borough.

“It has shown the Conservative party that they will perhaps need a rethink on their £90million theatre and town hall complex.

“Even if the CPOs are confirmed today, it shows across the borough only a small percentage of people are behind the scheme.”

Councillor Nick Pope of the Tunbridge Wells Alliance added: “I certainly hope they [the Conservatives] will now think about their theatre project again. It must be clear to them now that this is the wrong project for Tunbridge Wells.”

Both councillors said their respective parties will be seeking to work together ‘for the good of the borough’.

Read more: Theatre gets the green light



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