Conservatives and Labour go head-to-head in controversial by-election

Collage showing faces of two people.
By-election candidates (l-r): Kelly Cole (Conservative) and Dayley Lawrence (Labour).

This week’s by-election for a single seat on Bradley Stoke Town Council is a two-way contest between candidates representing the Conservative and Labour parties.

The seat, one of seven representing the South ward on the 15-seat town council, became vacant on the sad passing of mayor Michael Hill (Conservative) in November last year.

The by-election is taking place because ten or more electors called for one, using a right enshrined in the Local Government Act 1972, after the vacancy was advertised in late December 2021.

An estimated 7,000 electors living in the Bradley Stoke South ward are entitled to vote, with polling cards having been posted out in early February.

Voting takes place on Thursday 3rd March 2022, with the four polling stations being open from 7am to 10pm.

The victor will serve on the council for just 14 months, as the next regular four-yearly full election for the town council is due to take place in May 2023.

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The candidates

The Conservative Party candidate is local mum Kelly Cole who has worked in the National Health Service (NHS) for more than 20 years. In an election leaflet, she says:

“If elected, I will push for the Conservative-led council to continue its excellent record of delivering value for money for residents. I will be a strong voice for families across our area, on issues such as education, health and social care; as well as looking after our local parks and play areas.”

Standing for the Labour Party is Dayley Lawrence, who has also worked in the NHS and is now a postman delivering in the Bradley Stoke area. In an election leaflet, he says:

“Our town is a vibrant and multi-cultural place to live, with a very active community. I want to make it easier for local people to have their say, but at present many residents tell me they feel their views aren’t listened to by the Tory-dominated town council. I want to change this – our council needs to be a true representation of our residents.” 

Read more about the candidates in their 250-word statements on the Journal’s dedicated by-election information page, where scans of their election leaflets are also available to download.

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Controversy

The cost of staging this week’s by-election, which falls on the town council, is likely to exceed the £7,995 billed for the previous by-election in the ward in May 2021, when costs were shared with the West of England Mayor and Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner elections held on the same day.

Some members of the Conservative group on the council have criticised the Labour Party for (allegedly) calling a by-election, claiming that the “accepted practice” when a serving councillor dies is for the vacancy to be filled by co-option (this is when the remaining councillors chose a replacement themselves). The minutes of a council meeting held on 19th January 2022 record:

Cllr Tony Griffiths asked for it to be minuted that he and other councillors were appalled that the Labour Party had called a by-election to fill the vacancy left following the sad passing of Cllr Michael Hill. He said that, whilst it was not sacrosanct that if a serving councillor passed away, the position would be filled by co-option rather than calling an election, it was the accepted practice.

This by-election is likely to cost the residents in the region of £7-£10,000. The chair agreed to that comment and said that the money that the town council could use for community amenities and services are unnecessarily wasted due to this by-election, but he welcomes the democratic process.

Added to this, the Conservative election leaflet blames “opposition councillors” for demanding the by-election, “despite the seat being up for [re]election in just over 12 months’ time and at a cost of £10,000”.

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Responding to Cllr Griffiths’ claim that “the Labour Party called the by-election”, a spokesperson for the local branch of the Labour Party said:

“As Cllr Griffiths will know, a political party is not able to call an election. Ten electors of the ward submitted the form requesting an election. As we understand it, the form was signed by people of many political persuasions.”

“However, as an election is taking place, the Labour Party welcomes the democratic process to allow the residents of Bradley Stoke South ward to choose who they would like to represent them on Bradley Stoke Town Council.”

Exercising a right under the Local Government Act 1972, the Journal asked South Gloucestershire Council Electoral Services to provide the names of the electors who requested the by-election. Of the 13 names on the list (which were not necessarily all submitted on a single form) three have stood as Labour Party candidates in recent local elections. A further three have the same family name as one of those previous Labour Party candidates. Only one of the 13 is a current “opposition” (non-Conservative) councillor on Bradley Stoke Town Council, and that individual is not a Labour councillor.

More information and related links:

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Labour victory

UPDATE added 4th March 2022.

Dayley Lawrence (Labour) has won the Bradley Stoke Town (South ward) by-election with 540 votes, ahead of Kelly Cole (Conservative) on 530 votes. Turnout was 15.3%. Read more…

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One comment

  1. It is standard good practice for local councils to budget for any possible by-elections in any given period. If they fail to do so, and then have to take funds from those intended for community amenities and services, surely they are guilty of having been negligent in their financial duties?

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