Local elections: Sewage in the sea takes its toll at the polls on Havant Borough Council's Conservatives
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In an unexpected turn of events, Conservatives failed to defend five seats in Emsworth, Hayling West, Hayling East, Bedhampton and St Faiths.
NOW READ: Recap of what happened on election night
The Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats won two seats each, with the Green Party taking Emsworth.
The Conservatives held their seats in Hart Plain, Cowplain, Purbrook, Waterloo and Stakes.
Labour Councillor Phil Munday said: ‘I’m delighted that the monopoly that we had with Conservatives on the council is broken, it means there will be more open discussions about issues and all the different groups will have representations.
‘It’s good that the Greens and the Lib Dems are represented, it also means we can challenge more things and we can have more positive debates to make Havant better for all of us.’
Councillor Alex Rennie, leader of the council added: ‘Clearly it was a tough night for us, we lost five and we won five.
‘If you look across the board it's still a strong picture for Conservatism, I think if we look at Hayling Island and elsewhere we need to find out the reasoning behind those votes.
‘I wouldn’t want to pin it on one thing, there clearly were issues with sewage, it came up a lot on the doorstep, and as a council, we’re working really hard to address that.
‘There’s a real sense of dissatisfaction from some of our national politics, I think that’s also a big challenge. We’re seeing here locally people are really dissatisfied with what’s happening with national politics.’
Ten seats were up for re-election across ten wards – with the Conservatives defending eight seats with two vacancies. Before last night the Tories held 33 seats on the council out of 36. The new figure is 30 Conservatives; four Labour, two Liberal Democrats, one Green and one independent.
Speaking before the results, Cllr Rennie said: ‘I think we’ve put a strong campaign out there as to why the Conservative message is still the right one for this borough. Clearly, the national picture has been difficult this year, more difficult than I can remember in my entire time in politics. There are a lot of discontented people and we’ll have to see how that plays out as the night progresses.
‘The sewage was an issue spoken a lot at the doorstep, a lot of concern about the pollution taking place in the harbour. I think we’ve got a strong message as Conservatives taking action locally and we’re really pushing the national government to do more on that issue in particular.’
Also speaking before the count Shelley Saunders, Green Party candidate for Bedhampton, said she was ‘pleased’ with the response from her campaign. Later, it would be revealed that while she did not win her seat, Grainne Rason took Emsworth for the Greens.
‘It’s the first time the Green Party has actively campaigned in Bedhampton,’ she said. ‘The main issue is the sewage and the water recycling going into the reservoir – people are not happy about that.
‘It was very quiet at the polling stations today, certainly this morning when they were opening up there’s normally people queuing.’
Labour candidate for Cowplain ward, James Bitcliffe added before the results: ‘People are fed up with how the Conservative government has been completely inactive or shown any sort of leadership with the sewage issue.
‘There’s a sense of people being fed up and people are ready for change and I think they see the Labour Party as the primary vehicle with which that change can take place.
‘Even if opposition parties win all the seats tonight the Conservatives will still hold a large majority but wouldn’t be surprised if there was a change of seats.’