No Lib Dems left on Havant Borough Council after resignation of student

STEPPING DOWN Katie Ray after her election win
STEPPING DOWN Katie Ray after her election win
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ONE of Havant’s youngest ever councillors has resigned sparking a by-election in Leigh Park.

Katie Ray, a trainee teacher, was just 20 when she stood for Battins ward for the Lib Dems in 2010.

And when Faith Ponsonby lost her seat in May she was the only Lib Dem on the Conservative-led council.

The Tories claim she didn’t attend important meetings of the scrutiny committee and full council.

They questioned whether Miss Ray, who is studying for a masters degree in education, should now give back her annual allowance, which totals just under £5,000.

Conservative Mike Fairhurst, who represents Leigh Park’s Barncroft ward, said: ‘My daughter has done teacher training and it’s hard work. There was no hope Katie was ever going to cope with being a councillor at the same time. I think she has done the right thing.

‘I feel quite sorry for her in a way. Giving back her allowance is a matter for her but I don’t think that’s as important as the fact she has now resigned and we will get a new councillor of some sort.’

Labour sees it as a golden opportunity to capitalise on gains made in May’s local elections.

Richard Brown, who represents Warren Park on the council, said: ‘We’re over the moon. It might give us an opportunity to go up to four councillors – and I think we stand a good chance.

‘Having said that, it was very difficult for Katie to continue on her own.’

Miss Ray was unavailable for comment but Mrs Ponsonby, from the local Lib Dem group, defended her record on attending meetings.

She said: ‘We are very sad about it but she had been working so hard on her degree and now she is starting to apply for jobs and doesn’t know where she is going to be in the future.

‘There was a scrutiny meeting in May but the trouble was she was still doing her studies.’

With regards to the allowance Mrs Ponsonby, said: ‘It’s not just about attending meetings. She has been doing her case work for residents and going to ward events.’

A by-election is scheduled for November 15, the same day as Police Commissioner elections but it can be called earlier.