Local elections 2019: Conservatives suffer huge loss as Residents for Uttlesford take control of council
PUBLISHED: 19:08 03 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:59 09 May 2019
Conservative councillors have been swept away at Uttlesford District Council as voters turned to political party Residents for Uttlesford.
Conservatives lost 20 seats on the council, leaving them with just four councillors. One of the casualties included Howard Rolfe, former council leader, who lost his seat in Ashdon.
Meanwhile, Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) gained 16 seats, winning an overall majority of 26.
Liberal Democrats won seven seats and two independents were elected.
Significant Conservative losses include Lesley Wells, chairman of the council, who lost her seat in Broad Oak and The Hallingburys, alongside Keith Artus, chairman of Stansted Airport advisory panel.
Julie Redfern, cabinet member for housing, lost her seat in Littlebury, Chesterfords and Wenden Lofts, alongside Robert Chambers, chairman of licensing and environmental health committee.
R4U made notable gains in the south of the district, taking all three seats in Takeley and Great Dunmow South and Barnston.
Vic Ranger, cabinet member for communities and partnerships, lost his seat in Great Dunmow South and Barnston.
In Takeley, two high-profile Conservative councillors lost their seats - Derek Jones, chairman of the standards committee, and Howard Ryles, cabinet member for economic development. A third Conservative councillor, Jim Gordon, lost his seat in Takeley, leaving R4U to take control of the ward.
Speaking about his loss in Ashdon, Mr Rolfe said: "I was expecting the overall result; I knew it was going to be a big challenge. It's obviously disappointing to lose my seat. It's been a pleasure to serve Ashdon over the last four years. My result is part of the overall result across the country, and it is very much affected by the reaction to the two main Westminster parties. But we will be back."
R4U leader Councillor John Lodge said he was "a little bit stunned" by his party's victory and acknowledged that they had a huge task ahead. Explaining why he thinks voters turned to the party, he said: "I think they have seen the way we have fought for the residents of the district. Residents have seen we have been on their side and fighting. On a much more parochial level, we won the town council and on the town council, we have got things done. It's the only place we held power until today.
"People are seeing that when we're there, we get things done. We have an incredibly talented group of people from all professions. They see we can get things done, and they have faith in us to do the same thing for the district.
"And obviously national politics played a part in it, there's no doubt about it."
Following large Conservative losses in local elections across the country, Cllr Lodge said the Conservatives in Uttlesford should have lost four or five seats.
"You've seen something completely different happen here," he said.
Uttlesford Liberal Democrat leader, Councillor Alan Dean, said he was pleased with the outcome for his party.
"It looks like we will be the official opposition party and we will carry out that role to make sure the council stays on a sensible track," he said.
Two independents, Richard Pavitt and Neil Gregory, were elected in the ward of Littlebury, Chesterfords and Wenden Lofts.
Brian Ross, chairman of Stop Stansted Expansion campaign group, said 'history has been made'.
"You're witnessing history," he said. "I think we will find that Uttlesford will have the worst performance of any Conservative administration in the country."