The Liberal Democrats have won a shock victory after taking a council seat formerly held by a controversial independent councillor in a by-election last night (April 14).
Former Yellow Advertiser reporter Paula Spenceley will serve as the ward councillor for Heybridge West, and the council’s only Liberal Democrat member.
The seat was previously held by controversial councillor Chrisy Morris (non-aligned independent), who was sacked in February after breaching a non-molestation order stopping him from seeing a woman.
Mr Morris was given an eight month suspended prison sentence for eighteen months.
Richard Perry (independent), associate of Mr Morris and current chair of Heybridge Parish Council, received 72 votes, compared with the winning 269.
In second place, independent candidate Simon Burwood received 107 votes, while Conservative Nigel Miller received 93 and Labour’s Matthew Wallis-Keyes received 49.
Turnout for the by-election was 17.61 per cent, with 591 votes being cast out of an electorate of 3,356, according to the declaration of results.
One ballot paper was rejected having been cast with no markings.
Former teacher Paula, who was a reporter for the YA in the late 90s and early 00s, is involved with a variety of local voluntary groups in the district, including the Rotary Santa Sleigh at Christmas and the Remembrance Day parade.
She said in a statement ahead of the by-election: “I know what a strong and positive community Heybridge can be. I also know that many residents are deeply concerned about how our area is changing. With work starting on the North Heybridge Garden Suburb, the need to campaign for better infrastructure for Heybridge has never been stronger. We need new schools and GP surgeries and improved transport facilities.
“I recently retired from a career in local journalism and teaching. I have been reporting on local councils for nearly 30 years, so I understand how local government works. I want to put that knowledge and my communication skills to use for my community.
“As your district councillor, I’ll make sure you’re kept up to date on all that’s happening, listen to you, and be a strong voice for you on the local council.
“I am interested in getting things done, rather than indulging in the kind of antics and infighting we have seen recently at Maldon District Council.”