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Lib Dems back in charge of town council once more

Two recounts were needed before the scale of the Liberal Democrats’ control of Bognor Regis Town Council was known.


The manual counting of the votes were Hotham ward to decide the correct votes for Labour candidate Michelle White and Jeanette Warr, of the Lib Dems.


Ms White had initially been declared the winner when the returning officer, Nigel Lynn, officially announced the results.


She was given 477 votes against the some 140 said to be have gained by Mrs Warr.


But the outcome, which was at odds with every other result at the election count, was immediately challenged by the Lib Dems.


This led to the recounts which gave Mrs Warr 476 votes with 127 for Ms White.


Ms White graciously accepted the loss of her councillor status after about 90 minutes. She said: “It’s important the right person gets the result.


“Somehow, the wrong result was given by the computer. That happens. I would not want to take someone else’s seat because of a mistake by a computer. That would not be the right thing to do.”


Mrs Warr said: “It’s a computer error and I’m very sorry it has caused stress to Ms White. But I think I am back on the town council with the right amount of votes.


“The machine has got the count wrong but it has been done by hand twice and the same result has been given.”


Mr Lynn said: “The computer transposed the different results. We don’t know what happened. We have manually gone through the votes twice and have come within one vote.”


Mrs Warr’s delayed win gave the Lib Dems ten of the town council’s 16 seats. This has put them back in charge of the local authority after several years of a lack of overall control.


It also doubled their number of councillors. The Independents dropped one seat to five and Labour stayed at one member.


The Conservatives were the biggest losers. All their four seats were wiped out. This is the second time in about 20 years they have been absent from the town council.


Senior Lib Dem councillor Francis Oppler said after the count: “Having served on the town council for 17-and-a-half years, I am delighted we are back in charge of the town council.


“We have traditionally always had a very strong presence on the council and we implemented many great things.


“The Regis Centre, for example, would not be standing if it was not for the referendum we organised in 1993 to gauge public support for it.


“Under the leadership of Cllrs Matt Stanley and Jeanette Warr, who have been on the town council before, I am sure the council will do many more good things for the town.


“I am also looking forward to working with them as an Arun District Council member.


“The change of control of that council will completely alter the relationship between the authorities.”


Longest-serving Independent councillor Jim Brooks, back for his 13th year in Marine ward, said he would like to see the council use more of its powers.


“The town council has a lot of powers it can use. It’s important we look into how we can do more and how can have more effect on the town.


“It’s going to be a very exciting time and we need to exert as much influence as we can,” he said.


Newly-elected Lib Dem husband and wife John and Inna Erskine are the first cople to sit on the council for many years after their wins in Pevensey ward.


Mr Erksine said: “I want to renovate the seafront to make it more attractive.”


Mrs Erskine said: “I want the concerns of Bognor residents to be put first. There are a lot of social and regeneration issues there has been a lot of dissatisfaction with.


“We look forward to really listening and understanding what people would like and working really hard to make that happen.”


Labour’s sole member, Alison Sharples, was elected in Marine ward. She said: “I imagine I will be working with the Lib Dems for the good of Bognor Regis.


“We were elected by the people and should be listening to them. As for the Hothamton regeneration, I don’t see why we can’t look at both (regeneration) schemes and get the best of both.”


Deputy town mayor Cllr Phil Woodall was re-elected as an Independent for Orchard ward.


He said: “I’m really chuffed I have won. I have three issues I would like the council to concentrate on.


“One is to promote the awareness of mental health, because it is a serous issue.


“Another is to tackle homelessness. It is a big issue in the town and there must be a way we can accommodate those we see rough sleeper.


“Finally, I would like to support independent businesses by backing the local economy rather than the bigger companies.”

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