County council elections round-up for Stevenage and North Herts
Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporter
- Credit: Archant
The Conservatives now have four of the six county seats in Stevenage, with Labour and Lib Dems having one each.
Back in 2017, Labour won the Old Stevenage division in Stevenage by just 15 votes, but in the May 6 elections it has been picked up by the Conservatives.
Graham Lawrence was elected to the seat with 1827 votes – 146 more than second placed Richard Henry (Labour). This was the only political change in the county council's Stevenage seats.
Leader of Labour at Stevenage Borough Council Sharon Taylor retained the Bedwell seat. And Liberal Democrat Robin Parker held on to Chells.
Conservative Cllr Phil Bibby – who is the county council’s executive member for highways and environment – retained the St Nicholas seat.
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Cllr Adam Mitchell, Conservative, kept Broadwater. And new county councillor Roni Hearn retained Shephall for the Tories, a seat previously held by Michael Hearn.
In North Herts – where there are nine county council seats – the Conservatives held on to five of the seven divisions they had held.
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But they lost two seats – including Hitchin South, which had been held by executive member for growth, infrastructure, planning and the economy Cllr Derrick Ashley.
Conservatives Michael Muir (Baldock and Letchworth East), David Barnard (Hitchin Rural) and Richard Thake (Knebworth and Codicote) all kept their seats.
Conservative cabinet member Cllr Terry Hone (Letchworth South), executive member for community safety and waste management was also returned to County Hall.
And so was Fiona Hill (Royston East and Ermine) – whose result was the last in the county to be declared, just after 11pm on Saturday.
Leader of the county council’s Labour group Judi Billing held on to Hitchin North.
And she will now be joined by Labour candidate Tina Bhartwas, who won the Letchworth North seat, that had been held by Conservative Simon Bloxham. She won the contest with a majority of just 46 votes.
Liberal Democrat Steve Jarvis kept hold of the Royston West and Rural division.
And it was fellow Lib Dem Paul Clark who took the Hitchin South seat that had been held by Cllr Ashley – by a margin of just 42 votes.
Overall the Conservatives have retained their control of Hertfordshire County Council – but lost their leader in an election shock when Cllr David Williams lost his Harpenden seat to Lib Dem Paul De Kort.
All 78 seats on the county council were up for grabs. The Conservatives won 46 seats – which is three fewer than they held before, but still 14 more than the other parties put together.
Liberal Democrats took 23 seats – which is five more than before. And Labour’s seven elected councillors is now two fewer than previously.
The Green Party now have a voice on the county council , after Ben Crystall won All Saints Hertford.
Conservative Cllr Teresa Heritage – who was deputy leader and is now interim leader of the county council – said: “I am very pleased that the people of Hertfordshire have put their faith in the Conservative Party to continue running Hertfordshire for the next four years.
“There were some disappointing results, but we are looking forward to continuing to deliver people’s local priorities.”
The Liberal Democrats lost two of their existing seats – both in Welwyn Hatfield. But they made seven other gains – giving the a net gain on the county council of five seats.
And Cllr Giles-Medhurst says the results have strengthened their position as the official Opposition.
He says they are ‘extremely pleased’ to have made the gains, despite the ‘Boris bounce’ impacting on results across the country.
However he accepts he is disappointed with a number of ‘narrow losses’.
“We will hold the administration to account even more so from an invigorated and strengthened position,” he said.
Leader of the Labour group, Cllr Judi Billing says she was “massively disappointed” to lose such talented councillors.
And she said: “We had obviously hoped – and expected – to have a larger group rather than smaller. This is terribly disappointing.”
In accounting for the losses, Cllr Billing points to the national trend and suggests national Labour Party messaging may have also played a part.
Nevertheless she says Labour county councillors will ‘re-group’ – and still expect to be ‘punching above our weight’.