Lea & Larches by-election sees Liberal Democrats win second seat in the ward

Posted on - 5th July, 2024 - 9:42am | Author - | Posted in - Ashton-on-Ribble, Larches, Lea, Parks, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News
The candidates await their fate as Adrian Phillips, returning officer, reads the result Pic: Kevin Brockbank/Blog Preston

While Labour surged across the country there was more head-scratching for Preston’s Labour group as they lost a second time in the west of the city.

Lea & Larches saw a by-election as long-standing councillor David Borrows decided to step down.

And it was the Liberal Democrats who benefits for a second time-in-a-row from the decision by independent candidate Ann Cowell to stand in the ward with her opposition to the Ashton Park Sports Hub plans.

Read more: Sir Mark Hendrick remains as Preston’s MP but majority is reduced

Sean Little won the ward for the Lib Dems with 1,210 votes – beating Mark Routledge for Labour who polled 1,077.

Newly-elected councillor Little told Blog Preston: “I want to thank everyone who voted for me in the local election. I am a proud resident in Lea and larches and will work hard to represent our community going forward. It will be my honour to serve our community on all local issues and work hard to improve our local area.”

Sean Little – who is likely to be thankful for the chunk of votes taken out of Labour by the independent candidate Pic: Blog Preston

With Ann Cowell’s 467 votes, climbing from her first attempt in May where she notched up 300 votes and led to the removal of former council leader Jennifer Mein who narrowly lost to the Lib Dems.

Cowell’s decision to stand after being part of the campaign against the £9.7million Sports Hub and 3G pitches due to be built on part of the park has stirred passions and opinions across Ashton-on-Ribble.

The plans for the Sports Hub are approved with work timetabled to begin – but Cowell’s use of the issue to garner votes has now cost Labour twice.

The Conservatives Daniel Duckworth recorded 364 votes.

Watch the announcement of the by-election result below, or on our YouTube channel

The decision to go for a by-election alongside the general election, and the selection of former Ashton councillor Mark Routledge, had appeared to be a tactical move to try and shore up the seat for the Labour group. 20-year-old student, Avery Greatorex, had originally been selected to stand in the by-election but was axed in favour of the more experienced Routledge – who had been unsuccessful in the Sharoe Green ward in May’s local elections.

Labour still have a commanding majority in the Town Hall with 28 councillors to the Lib Dems 13 and the Conservatives six.

Council and Preston Labour leader councillor Matthew Brown told Blog Preston: “Despite a very good night for Labour across the country we are obviously very disappointed about the loss of Lea and Larches to the Lib Dem’s and for Mark Routledge who would have brought tonnes of experience to the authority.

“In the six years I have been Labour Group Leader we have not lost a single seat and in just over two months we have lost two in the one ward. It is obvious the Ashton Park redevelopment has severely divided opinion.

“As a Labour Council we have been starved of money in many areas by the Tory government and our intention is to ensure children and young people in that area and beyond have access to improved sporting facilities when we submitted our Levelling Up bid.

“We will now regroup and work with the new Labour Government to improve Preston with the many opportunities that brings. It is right we reflect on the result and continue engaging with residents on the issue.”

Read more: Ribble Valley elects first ever Labour MP as massive Conservative majority overturned

Preston Lib Dem and opposition leader councillor John Potter said he and his party would be applying ‘further scrutiny’ to the city’s Labour-run administration.

He said: “Delighted for Sean’s victory in Lea & Larches ward. Along with Cllr Mark Jewell and the team, Sean worked his socks off to achieve an astonishing result.

“To win a local by-election on the same day as the General Election, when turnout doubles, is a massive feat.

“The Lib Dem group is now at 13 [councillors], and we look forward to holding the Labour run Preston Council to account. If they don’t listen, or take the city for granted, we’ll keep taking seats off them until they do.”

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