Lib Dems keep control of the town council

LIBERAL Democrats have retained control of Morpeth Town Council, winning nine out of 15 seats.

The party claimed four out of five seats in each of the Kirkhill and Stobhill wards, but took just one in Morpeth North, where Greens and Independents made their mark.

The two Independents were Lights Out campaigners David Clark and Bob Robertson. They came second and third behind council stalwart Nic Best.

Coun Clark received 675 votes and Coun Robertson was narrowly ahead with 688.

It was also a great result for the Greens because as well as Coun Best, who secured 794 votes, fellow party member Ron Forster won a seat with 630 votes, taking fifth place just behind Liberal Democrat veteran councillor Les Cassie, with 650 votes.

Veteran Liberal Democrat councillor Andrew Tebbutt attracted the most votes of all town council candidates, taking 804 in Kirkhill.

The other successful candidates in the ward were South Morpeth Coalition campaigner Joan Tebbutt with 697 votes, council stalwart David Parker, who took 685 votes, and Ken Brown with 679 votes.

Completing the list was Labour’s Adrian Slassor, who took 530 votes.

Conservative Dave Herne lost his seat, winning just 525 votes, and there was disappointment for 20-year-old Conservative Jack Gebhard, who lost out by just one vote with 529.

It was a poor result for the Conservatives generally in the ward, with Charlotte Peacock (446 votes) and Richard Wearmouth (388 votes) bringing up the rear.

Coun Parker, a former Castle Morpeth councillor, is one of five returning members, all Liberal Democrats.

He said: “We have regularly communicated with residents about a range of local issues, which was recognised on the doorstep.

“I feel greatly honoured to be elected for the fourth time by the people in the south end of Morpeth and I’m looking forward to working with my council colleagues over the next four years.”

Coun Joan Tebbutt is a former county and borough councillor. This is the first time she has been elected to the town council.

“I’m absolutely delighted to join the authority and I will work hard to represent the people of Morpeth over the next four years,” she said.

“I’m also looking forward to continuing my involvement with the neighbourhood plan.”

Coun Andrew Tebbutt added that all the councillors on the authority will work together and with other Morpeth and Northumberland organisations in the best interests of the town, as was the case in the previous six-year term.

Mr Gebhard said: “Thanks to everyone who supported me. I’ve never felt so grateful as when I realised I was within one vote of representing the area I love.”

The Lights Out group has been calling for the removal of the traffic lights at Telford Bridge and members have organised a petition and march to county hall among other activities. Coun Clark said: “I was feeling nervous during the day because we had to wait a long time for the results, but I thought we had a chance because of the level of support the group has received.

“I’m looking forward to working with fellow councillors and others for the good of the town.

“I will carry out my pre-election promises, which are to listen, represent and always remain impartial.”

Coun Robertson said: “As well as the traffic lights, the issues that people brought up with me included car parking charges, the state of pavements, dog fouling and the speed of some vehicles coming into Morpeth past Lancaster Park and down Dogger Bank.

“We’re looking forward to an interesting term of office. We welcome any advice from members of the public as we get used to our new roles.”

Coun Best, the longest serving member of the town council, said: “It’s an excellent result for us and I hope we can do a good job for Morpeth. I’m grateful to the voters for electing me once again.

“Ron is someone who is well-known in the town and I’m delighted that he has won a seat.”

Conservative David Bawn, who took the county council seat for Morpeth North earlier in the day, missed out with 591 votes.

And Liberal Democrats Graeme Trotter, who was a leading member of the Morpeth Neighbourhood Plan group, and Richard Thompson also failed to scrape through, with 529 votes and 556 respectively.

Again there was disappointment for the Conservatives, with Nicola Bawn (448 votes) and Johnny Wearmouth (413) propping up the list.

There were four newcomers in the Stobill ward.

Alison Byard (673 votes), Stuart Lishman (547) and Dave Pope (515) were elected for the Liberal Democrats, along with former Mayor Mark Horton (569).

Rachel Moore, for the Conservatives, was also voted onto the council for the first time as she claimed the last seat in the ward with 442 votes, leaving Liberal Democrat Mark Owen behind on 409.

She said: “I believe in community and doing your best for the area in which you live.

“I’m delighted to be elected and I can’t wait to start working with my fellow councillors on a range of issues.”

Coun Lishman and Coun Pope were both former chairs of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade.

“I’m looking forward to joining a team which is in the main well-established,” said Coun Pope.

“I see the role of a councillor as not only being able to influence the future direction of the town, but also listening to and sympathetically reacting to the concerns of residents.”

Coun Lishman said: “I’m pleased that I can now get back to doing some positive work for the community and hopefully I will help to keep Morpeth as one of the best towns in the county.”