Conservatives win Watton from UKIP and Liberal Democrats hold South Smallburgh in Norfolk County Council by-elections

Claire Bowes (Conservative)

Claire Bowes (Conservative) - Credit: Submitted

The Conservatives have won a Norfolk County Council by-election in Watton, while the Liberal Democrats held their seat in South Smallburgh.

Last night's by-election for the Watton division was called after Stan Hebborn, who was elected under the UK Independence Party banner, resigned from County Hall.

Tory Claire Bowes won with 822 votes, beating Independent candidate Keith Gilbert, who had 793 votes, Joe Sisto, Labour, with 105, and Tim Birt, Green, who had 81.

UKIP and the Liberal Democrats did not field candidates. The turnout was 21pc.

It was one of two by-elections last night - Liberal Democrat Dave Thomas also announced his resignation from the South Smallburgh ward at the start of the month.

The election of Allison Bradnock ensured the Liberal Democrats held the seat. She took 1,383 votes. Conservative (and former Lib Dem defector) Paul Rice got 697, Barru Whitehouse (UKIP) 219, David Spencer (Labour) 103 and Anne Filgate (Green) 52

And the comfortable margin of Mrs Bradnock's victory - which saw her almost double her party's vote share despite the Conservatives working hard in the run-up to the election - will have delighted the Lib Dems in one of the first post-general election tests in Norfolk.

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There was a lot riding on the by-elections, in terms of the fragile balance of power at Norfolk County Council.

If both by-elections had been won by the Conservatives, the party could have chosen to mount a leadership challenge at the full council meeting on December 14.

It means the council is currently made up of 41 Conservative members to 14 Labour, 13 UKIP and Independent, 10 Liberal Democrats, four Greens and two non-aligned.

Labour, UKIP and the Liberal Democrats have formed a so-called rainbow alliance, which has been supported by the Greens.