Conservatives gain Lib Dem ward in double by-election victory

Embargoed to 0001 Monday April 08 File photo dated 6/5/2016 of a Conservative Party rosette. Potenti

The Conservatives secured wins in two by-elections on Breckland and North Norfolk district councils on Thursday, December 2. - Credit: PA

The Conservatives have scored wins in two Norfolk district council by-elections - including a gain from the Liberal Democrats. 

In Hermitage ward, Breckland, the Conservatives retained the ward but with a greatly reduced majority.

The Liberal Democrats, who had not previously contested the ward, received 221 votes compared to the Conservative candidate Robert Hambidge’s 243.

Mr Hambidge said: “I’m highly delighted as you would expect. I’ve got a very tough act to follow and I will give my total dedication to do the job properly."

The new Dereham Cemetery was opened by Robert Hambidge. Picture: Ian Burt

Newly-elected district councillor Robert Hambidge - Credit: Ian Burt

He said the count was “quite alarming, because it was really quite close.”

Asked what he thought it was that allowed him to beat the Lib Dem challenge, he said: “If I’m honest it was the previous incumbent."

The previous councillor, Trevor Carter, had announced he was standing down in October for 'personal reasons' after a decade on the council.  

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“Everyone I spoke to was sad he was going, and [said] what a fantastically active councillor he was, and in actual fact one guy did say ‘You’ve got a hard act to follow, Robert.’”

In Stalham, North Norfolk, a swing in the opposite direction saw 22-year-old Conservative candidate Matthew Taylor capture one of the ward’s two councillor seats from the Lib Dems.

Mr Taylor said: "It was fantastic. I called Duncan [Baker MP] afterwards and I just said to him, 'That feeling is addictive. It's the first time I've ever felt it before, but I can see why people do this over and over again.''"

He added: "I thought it was going to be neck and neck the whole way, because obviously we were on the back foot from the outset - we were trying to take the seat."

Matthew Taylor, Duncan Baker, Nigel Dixon

One Conservative team: Newly-elected district councillor Matthew Taylor (centre), with Duncan Baker MP (left) and local county councillor Nigel Dixon (right). - Credit: North Norfolk Conservatives

Mr Taylor said he looked forward to working with Mr Baker and local Conservative county councillor Nigel Dixon as a Conservative team for the area. The vote was called after Lib-dem representative Marion Millership stood down. 

The results (with changes compared to the 2019 council elections) were:

Hermitage (Breckland): Conservative hold

Conservative: 243 votes, 45.0pc (-26.3)
Lib Dem: 221 votes, 40.9pc (+40.9)
Labour: 66 votes, 12.2pc (-16.5)
Workers Party of Britain: 10 votes, 1.9pc (+1.9)

Total valid votes: 540 (Turnout: 23.49pc)

Stalham (North Norfolk): Conservative gain

Conservative: 559 votes, 55.2pc (+25.9)
Lib Dem: 375 votes, 37.0pc (-11.1)
Labour: 79 votes, 7.8pc (-0.2)

Total valid votes: 1,013 (Turnout: 22.5pc)

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