Tories win tough fight for Stanley

THE Tories held on to Blackpool's Stanley ward seat by just 46 votes after a hard-fought by-election.

A partial recount was needed at Blackpool Town Hall last night, before Conservative candidate Jean Kenrick was declared the winner.

She secured 648 votes against the 602 cast for Labour's John Jones. The Tory majority was slashed from more than 700.

Mrs Kenrick's campaign had been dogged with controversy after it emerged the Blackpool South Conservative Association had accepted 10,000 in donations from Kensington Developments which wants to build hundreds of houses on Marton Moss.

The money was paid back this week following an inquiry into whether it had been appropriate to accept the cash.

Mrs Kenrick said: "After everything that has gone on, I'm delighted with the result. But I think I fought my campaign on my own character and reputation and people recognised that and it paid off. I will work hard for my constituents and be a good ward councillor and support people in what they want."

Quizzed on the future of development on the Moss, she added: "We need to see regeneration in the inner wards and get rid of all the rundown properties."

Michael Hodkinson, of the Liberal Democrats came third in last night's ballot with 332 votes, followed by Colin Porter (UK Independence Party) with 203 votes and Les Joy (BNP) with 192.

Labour's demand for a full recount was turned down by the returning officer and council chief executive Steve Weaver, but bundles of votes were re-checked with the final result emerging just before midnight.

Mr Jones thanked his supporters and added: "The people of Stanley ward have shown the Tories they are fed up with them. It has been very close and I think we will come back again and show this ward can be won by Labour.

"I'm obviously disappointed but I think we have fought a really strong campaign."

Labour group leader Coun Ivan Taylor added: "To get a result like this in Stanley ward which has been a safe Conservative seat for years is remarkable.

"It demonstrates the Tory council are getting it wrong on this Marton Moss issue and I hope they will realise that and have an about turn."

The by-election was called following the death in June of Coun Granville Heap who had held the seat for the Conservatives since 1983.