Liberal Democrats have held both of their seats on the county and district council following the by-election for Hitchin held yesterday.

The by-election came following the tragic death of long-serving district councillor, Paul Clark.

Raj Bhakar won the Hitchin Highbury seat on North Herts Council after polling 1,238 votes – which was 788 more than Conservative candidate Samuel Forsyth.

Meanwhile Keith Hoskins – already a district councillor for the Hitchin Highbury ward – was elected to Hitchin South division of the county council.

In May last year the Liberal Democrats had ousted the Conservatives from the county council seat – with a majority of just 42 votes.

But on Thursday, Councillor Hoskins – Hitchin’s former town centre manager – polled 2,401 votes, 1,711 more votes than Conservative candidate Claire Strong.

Cllr Hoskins believes the scale of the victory reflects his 25-year track record in the town, the decision of the Labour Party not to field candidates and some disillusion with the Conservatives.

He says it is "heart warming" that the people of Hitchin have given him their vote of confidence to continue to serve the town. He also acknowledged that the circumstances of the by-election – following the death of serving councillor Paul Clark – meant that it was also a sad occasion.

Cllr Clark, who had represented the Liberal Democrats for 26 years, had served on the district council – where he was deputy leader – for many years. He had been a member of the county council since May 2021.

In recognising the contribution made by Cllr Clark, Cllr Hoskins told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he aimed to continue Cllr Clark’s legacy of community service and that he would be ‘one to follow’.

The Comet: Keith Hoskins will serve Hitchin South for Herts County CouncilKeith Hoskins will serve Hitchin South for Herts County Council (Image: North Herts Lib Dems)

Meanwhile newly-elected district councillor Raj Bhakar said that the by-election victories showed the support there was for Liberal Democrats – and that people "can see the work that we are doing and want to continue to support us".

She pointed to the ongoing work by the local Lib Dem team – highlighting the legacy of Paul Clark in particular – and said that they would continue with that work.

“It will be tough to fill his shoes,” said Cllr Bhaker. "But I look forward to continuing his legacy and doing as much as I can to support residents and keep up his good work.”

Both by-elections were contested by candidates from the Christian Peoples Alliance, Conservatives, Green Party and Liberal Democrats.

The Labour Party did not stand candidates in either by-election – suggesting that in the ‘sad circumstances’ it did not feel right.

Hitchin Highbury (NHDC) results:

  • Raj Bhakar, Liberal Democrats, 1,238 votes
  • Deolinda Eltringham, Green Party, 134 votes
  • Samuel Forsyth, Conservatives, 450
  • Leigh Smith, Christian Peoples Alliance, 27.

Hitchin South (Herts County Council) results:

  • Deolinda Eltringham, Green Party, 223
  • Keith Hoskins, Liberal Democrats, 2,401
  • Leigh Smith, Christian Peoples Alliance, 35
  • Claire Strong, Conservatives, 690