Lewes District Council remains with no overall control

Lewes District Council remains with no overall control after the 2019 local elections.

Heading into the election with 20 Conservatives, nine Lib Dems, three Greens and nine independents, the final results saw a significant change up in the make up of the council.

The final results left the council with 19 Conservatives, nine Greens, eight Lib Dems, three Labour and just two independents.

The Green Party made the greatest gains – taking on six new seats to become the council’s second largest party.

Speaking after his group returned all three Ouse Valley and Ringmer seats, Green Party councillor Johnny Denis said: “I think it is a really brilliant reward for a lot of hard work.

“People have seen that all three candidates have worked really, really hard to convince people that they do the job, speak to people on the doorstep and find out what really matters to them.

“We are thrilled that our hard work has been recognised and we just hope to be better able to represent the people of Ouse Valley and Ringmer.

“It is really going to change the shape of the council because we are going to be a much bigger influence.

“We’ve gone from three voices to nine so we hopefully we will be able to have a stronger influence on the council to represent more broadly the views of the whole district.”

The Green Party saw particular success within Lewes town, with all bar one of the seats going their way.

The final seat – within Lewes Priory ward – went to longstanding independent councillor Ruth O’Keeffe who received a massive 2,041 votes.

It was a far more mixed picture for the Conservative group, however, which saw both significant gains and bruising losses as the results came in.

The group’s most noticeable loss came in East Saltdean and Telscombe Cliffs, where it lost two seats – including that of council leader Andy Smith – to Labour.

Speaking as the results came in, the former council leader said he was ‘sanguine’ about the result and offered some advice for his successor.

He said: “I think the reason why this council has bucked the trend is because it has been working collaboratively across all parties.

“It has set aside a large amount of capital funding for projects which we will deal with over the next four years. It will all be good news for the district and the people who live in it.

“My only hope is that they can get back round the table, start working together and deliver the stuff that is in that Conservative manifesto.”

Labour took a third seat from the Conservatives in Peacehaven East marking the first time the political group has sat on Lewes District Council for more than a decade.

Chris Collier, who took the seat, said: “I’m very, very pleased. Over the last year or so we have seen a move towards Labour in Peacehaven and Telscombe and East Saltdean.

“We have had a number of [parish] by-elections we had won and we had hoped we could move things forward. I’m very pleased we could take a district council seat.”

The Conservatives fared better elsewhere however taking several key Independent seats in Peacehaven and a Liberal Democrat seat in Seaford North.

As a result the Conservatives returned 19 councillors overall – one fewer than it had going into the election – to remain the largest single party but falling short of an overall majority.

The Liberal Democrats meanwhile finished a seat down, losing several seats to the Greens in Ringmer and Lewes but held steady in other areas.

The Lib Dems saw their greatest success in Newhaven South, securing all three members by taking a Conservative and an independent seat.

Simon Burall, Convenor of Lewes Lib Dems, said: “Lewes Lib Dems will push for delivery of our manifesto commitments at the district council.

“Over recent months, we have fought and won convincing campaigns in towns and villages up and down the district and we appreciate the wide backing for our policies from voters in every part of Lewes district.

“Although we lost two seats in Lewes town and one in Ringmer, we secured an additional seat in Newhaven and won contests in Seaford and a number of village wards, such as Plumpton, Kingston and came a close second in Ditchling. “Furthermore we now have the largest groups on town councils across the district, including in Lewes, Seaford and Newhaven, where we are in overall control and 19-year-old George Taylor is the youngest new member of Newhaven Town Council.

“We will use our key role in town councils to ensure more inclusive government at the most local level and make sure residents have strong local champions.”

James MacCleary, newly-elected district councillor for Newhaven South, said: “At the district council, we will explore all options to work with others, to ensure delivery of our ambitious manifesto priorities of truly affordable housing, a better environment, sustainable transport, support to local small businesses and a more inclusive council to deliver a better, fairer future for the whole district.”