Candidates confirmed for Northumberland County Council by-election

Candidates have been confirmed in the contest to replace a Northumberland councillor who claims she quit her job over ‘abuse’.

Wednesday, 24th November 2021, 3:12 pm
Candidates in the by-election.

Cath Homer stepped down from her Hexham East seat on Northumberland County Council, following what she described as a “malicious” hate campaign against her.

The decision wiped out the Conservative Party’s majority control of the local authority, although it remains the largest single political group.

And the Tories face a battle to regain the lost ground, with Labour, the Liberal Democrats and an independent all vying for the chance to replace the former councillor.

The Lib Dems were the first to unveil their candidate, with Suzanne Fairless-Aitken, a serving member of Hexham Town Council (HTC), hoping to improve on her runner’s up place at May’s round of local elections.

She said: said: “I’m a trier and I think that morally I don’t have much choice but to stand and continue the good work I started [in May].

“Since then I’ve narrowed the gap – what’s happening nationally has bothered me so much that when the seat came up again I couldn’t say no.”

Ms Fairless-Aitken’s colleague on the town council, Stephen Ball, has also been confirmed as the Tory choice to step into Homer’s shoes.

Mr Ball, who was made an MBE this year for services to rugby league charities, called his nomination a “huge honour”.

He added that recent improvements to Hexham’s schools, as well as further planned investment in the historic town, showed why voters should keep faith in the Conservatives.

May saw a close campaign between the Lib Dems and Conservatives, with Ms Homer, who has denied claims by an independent investigator she may have breached council rules with “inappropriate” behaviour and comments to others, victorious by just 130 votes.

Hoping for a breakthrough at the by-election, scheduled for December 16, will be Labour candidate Jonathan Wheeler, currently a member of Prudhoe Town Council, but who insists his time spent working in Hexham has prepared him for the county council role.

Lee Williscroft-Ferris, another member of Hexham Town Council, has also confirmed he intends to stand, but as an independent.

He said: “What the last few months have shown is how chaotic party politics can be.

“If you take party politics out, you’re left with someone who can act purely in the interests of local people.”

One party voters won’t see on the ballot paper, however, is the Green Party, which insisted its “hard decision” not to stand a candidate was not “Tory-bashing”.

County councillor Nick Morphet said: “We decided it was much better not to stand a candidate, to avoid splitting the vote and to try and achieve a situation of no overall control of the county council.

“We’re just going to sit it out and hope that it results in a situation of no overall control.

“It will be better for democracy and better for the environment if we can put our differences aside and work together.

“This is not about Tory-bashing, this is about achieving a situation of no overall control, rather than stranglehold control [by one party] – we don’t think majorities are a healthy thing for democracy.”

Candidates:

Stephen Anthony BALL – The Conservative Party Suzanne Holly FAIRLESS-AITKEN – Liberal Democrats Jonathan Paul WHEELER – Labour Party Lee Christopher WILLISCROFT-FERRIS – Independent

James Harrison