Six seats up for grabs as local councillors step down or move

SIXTEEN of the Borough Council’s 48 seats are to be contested this May in an election notable for the movement of councillors: either leaving the Council or, in one case, moving to another ward.

Six councillors are stepping down, including Cllr Linda Hall (Conservative – Goudhurst and Lamberhurst), first elected in May 2007, Planning Committee Chair Cllr Trevor Poile (Liberal Democrat – Southborough North) and Cllr Lucy Willis (Alliance – Speldhurst & Bidborough), who ousted former Conservative Leader David Jukes in 2019.

Cllr Luke Everitt (Labour – Southborough & High Brooms), the Cabinet Member for Environment, Sustainability and Carbon Reduction, is also stepping down.

Two of those stepping down currently sit as independents.

Both Cllr James Rands and Cllr Andrew Hickey had originally been elected as Liberal Democrats and both individually left the local party over the course of last year.

Cllr Rands left the local party early last year following what he called a ‘factional’ rift in the party. However, announcing his decision not to contest this election, he endorsed the Lib Dem candidate.

Cllr Hickey left the local Lib Dems and his post as Cabinet member for Finance and Performance last August, following last year’s backlash against the Borough Partnership coalition’s proposals to introduce parking charges at Council-run car parks in Paddock Wood and Southborough without prior consultation.

In an electoral twist, the other two independents on the Council will face one another at the ballot box in Paddock Wood East.

Cllr Rodney Atkins is part of the Borough Partnership coalition, but is re-standing as an independent in Paddock Wood East, where he will face five other candidates, including Cllr Matthew Bailey, who is leaving his Paddock Wood West seat to contest the neighbouring ward.

Cllr Bailey sat as a Conservative for Paddock Wood West until January 2022, when he left the party over the ‘partygate’ scandal, becoming an independent. He has registered the Royal Tunbridge Wells Residents Party with the Electoral Commission, to be called the Residents Party.

The only other Residents Party candidate in the election, Linda Store, will contest Cllr Bailey’s old seat of Paddock Wood West.

The Local Government Boundary Commission for England has not yet confirmed the outcome of its review of the number of councillors, wards and ward names for Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

However, if its proposals are confirmed, next year will see an ‘all-out’ election in 2024, with potentially 48 councillors competing with one another, and with challenger candidates for 39 seats in 13 wards, and many more opportunities for candidates to use their calculators.

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