WEST OXON ELECTIONS: Tories tighten grip on council

Witney Gazette: Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth, left, West Oxfordshire District Council lerader Barry Norton, centre, and Liam Walker, chairman of Witney Conservative Future Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth, left, West Oxfordshire District Council lerader Barry Norton, centre, and Liam Walker, chairman of Witney Conservative Future

RELIEF and joy swept through Windrush Leisure Centre as the Conservatives managed to gain two seats in the district.

After a swift two hours of counting, the Conservative Party in West Oxfordshire District Council remained victorious after increasing their majority to 40 seats out of the council’s 49.

Of the 17 seats up for election, it won in 15 wards, while Labour gained a seat and the Liberal Democrats had a mixed bag, losing one seat but holding its other.

The party was under pressure to hold off UKIP as it made a challenge to 10 seats.

But the Tories held on, gaining two seats in Ducklington and Eynsham & Cassington, the latter previosuly a Liberal Democrat seat.

Witney Gazette:

  • Ben Woodruff

Ben Woodruff won the Ducklington seat with 337 votes – 50 per cent – after Steve Hayward resigned following his controversial move to Thailand. Mr Hayward left the Conservative Party last year.

Mr Woodruff moved to reassure residents he was going to stay. He said: “I have no intention of going to Thailand.

“The hard work on the campaign has paid off and the people in the area have decided.”

Council leader Barry Norton said the success showed people of the district supported the party, despite the national picture.

He said: “We started off the night with 13 of the 17 seats up for election and we ended up with 15 victories, including two gains.

“Again Conservatives across the country have not been doing that well and we are probably out-performing the national picture here, which underlies that we have a trust from people that we are achieving in West Oxfordshire.

“Our majority on the council is now increased to 31, as we hold 40 of the 49 seats on the council.

“A couple of other noteworthy victories are Alex Postan at Brize Norton & Shilton, where he saw off a single-issue Independent who was against housing growth in that particular area.

“So I think that’s particularly commendable there and, of course, we had terrific gain in Eynsham & Cassington where Peter Emery took the seat that was previously held by the Liberal Democrats. That’s a great gain for us now.

“What it means now is that we can continue to move forward running the council in a very positive way, making efficiency savings wherever we can, pioneering new ways of streamlining services and how they are presented to the public so we can become really cost-efficient and we are working with other councils to do that.”

Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: “Locally we have 15 Conservative seats out of 17 overall, which is a very good result. Our results, with two gains, have shown a huge vote of confidence in all the good things Conservatives are doing on behalf of local people.”

Anti-Europe party UKIP closed in on its political rivals the Conservatives in West Oxfordshire, but failed to gain any seats.

The party came second to the Tories in seven of the 10 wards it contested. The tensest moment came during the announcement for the Witney South ward, where incumbent David Harvey had faced a challenge from UKIP’s James Robertshaw.

Mr Harvey won with 625 votes – a margin of 152.

Mr Harvey said: “It went all the way down to the door. At the end of the day it shows the overall appreciation people have for the work I have done in the cabinet as portfolio holder for environment.”

Mr Robertshaw believed the weather played a part on results, saying: “I think part of it is because it was on the same day as European elections and I think I would have done better, to be honest, but it was raining yesterday and Labour had quite a heavy campaign as well.”

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