LOCAL ELECTIONS 2018: Tories strengthen their grip on power in Amber Valley
The Conservatives have strengthened their majority on Amber Valley Borough Council.
After starting the election period with 23 councillors versus 22, the Tories gained three seats on the night to Labour’s one.
This leaves the Tories in charge of the authority with a larger majority of 25 to 20, despite early optimism from Labour.
Meanwhile, the authority remains a two-party affair - despite a good showing by the Greens in Duffield.
And there is yet to be any other political representation on the authority, with no UKIP candidates this year - despite standing in every ward in 2016.
There were 15 seats up for grabs this year, with the borough council electing members in thirds.
The Conservatives have led the borough council for all but one year this side of the Millennium, and extended that dominance for another year.
Throughout this year’s campaign Labour had looked optimistic about stealing the authority back, and with an early gain of Belper East off their Tory rivals this looked to be on the cards.
But it was downhill from there.
The Tories made gains in Ripley – unseating the opposition leader’s brother, Roland Emmas-Williams – along with Heanor East and Heanor West, forcing Labour stalwart Paul Jones out of office.
It was perhaps the loss of Coun Jones which sent out the biggest shockwaves on the night.
After serving on the authority for 28 years, the Labour favourite was unseated by just 28 votes - with Steven Grainger taking his spot for the Conservatives.
Upon losing his seat, Coun Jones said: “This isn’t the way I’d like to bow out after some 25 or so years.
“But we will do our best to ensure that Heanor still gets what it deserves.
“I’m sure Steven (Grainger) will do a good job, and we will make sure to keep a close eye on what goes on.”
There was a lower turnout from the borough’s electorate this year with just 34.42 per cent, down from the last election in 2016 – 35.93 per cent.
Candidates and party supporters on the night put this down to the lack of a general election this year, and a general dismay with politics, due to the ongoing Brexit talks.
It was Duffield which sat top of the tree with the highest turnout, an impressive 46.4 per cent.
In Ripley, Sean Carte unseated Roland Emmas-Williams with the highest number of votes out of all the candidate - a staggering 1,207, beating his Labour rival who earned 1,061.
There were, as always in Amber Valley, several slim wins – with the 28 votes in Heanor West spelling the closest margin.
It is slim wins such as these which largely explain why the authority regularly hangs in the balance.
Labour’s Fay Atkinson stole Belper East by just 59 votes; while her party also retained Codnor and Waingroves by 74 votes; held Heanor and Loscoe by a mere 34 votes and kept Langley Mill and Aldercar by 47 votes.
Conservative leader Coun Kevin Buttery was pleased with his party’s victory.
He said: “This is a clear show of support from the people themselves, we have increased our majority to five.
“Now we can take stock and make more plans for the future, and make sure that we continue providing for the people of Amber Valley.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Coun Chris Emmas-Williams vowed that his party would bounce back next year.
He said: “It’s a really gutting result, I am very disappointed.
“We have lost some really good councillors as a result of this vote and they’ll be sorely missed.
“It was always going to be difficult, but we’ll be back next year to take control, definitely.”
It was the debate over the protection of land in the Green Belt which dominated this year’s election.
With the submission of the Amber Valley Local Plan came proposals to build 10,000 homes in the next 10 years.
Some 3,000 of these are for land near Denby, which has seen the “deletion” of land from the Green Belt.
Other key topics were CCTV, the future of the Belper River Gardens tearooms, litter, dog mess and the disrepair of the borough’s town centres.
The Liberal Democrats stood in every seat, along with Labour and the Tories, while the Green Party stood in 10, followed by one independent – Steven White in Belper South – and one candidate representing the National Front – Timothy Knowles in Langley Mill & Aldercar.