Tories squeak Rusbridge stronghold after an apparent Lib-Lab poll pact

Gary Jefferies

The successor to the late and much-loved local councillor Mike Rusbridge says he has ‘big shoes to fill’ following his by election victory last Thursday.

Conservative Joe Simmons was elected as councillor for Southborough North with 483 votes, 43 per cent of those cast.

The result was very close – a majority of just 49 – after an apparent pact between the Liberal Democrats and Labour.

The seat was not contested by Labour with Lib Dem Trevor Poile able to mop up the left of centre support.

The election was called after the death of councillor and former Tunbridge Wells mayor Mike Rusbridge in May.

Cllr Simmons told the Times: “I am very grateful to the residents of Southborough North for giving me the honour of representing them, and to all of my team for the support they gave me throughout.

“I am delighted with the victory, though there is a sad note to it because of what caused the election in the first place.

“I had a great deal of respect for Mike Rusbridge. His are big shoes to fill, but I will do all that I can to fill them.”

Although committed to improving the lives of residents across the ward, Cllr Simmons is realistic about the scale of changes he will be able to make during his term in office.

“I can’t do anything about the number of cars that are going down the A26, as much as I would like to. But there are lots of smaller local issues that I can deal with as a local councillor – issues associated with road conditions, with hedges, with overgrown trees.

“And I can try to ensure, as far as possible, that the people of Southborough get the outcome they want from the Southborough hub project.

“Most people believe the area needs something to lift it up, and the development of the hub is an important issue for residents.

“There are some concerns over how many houses are built on The Ridgeway playing field, though figures have been exaggerated in some quarters.

“It is important that we make judgements and decisions based on facts, not on election politicking.

“And we need to look closely at how the public respond when council proposals go out for consultation next month.”

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