By-election on horizon as councillor resigns

Coun Sarah Riding
Coun Sarah Riding
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Blackpool is expecting a by-election next month as Coun Sarah Riding became the third Labour councillor to quit Blackpool Council in seven months.

Coun Riding says she talked extensively with council leader Simon Blackburn before resigning after getting a new job in Manchester which, she said, meant she couldn’t give 100 per cent to people living in Talbot ward.

Blackpool Town Hall.

Blackpool Town Hall.

It follows Chris Maughan, who also cited work commitments as his reason for stepping down from representing Highfield in August, and John Boughton who resigned as Layton councillor in January.

A by-election was held for Highfield last September, and Coun Blackburn has announced others are to be held – probably on May 22 to coincide with the European Elections to reduce cost – for Layton, Talbot and Hawes Side, which is short of a councillor following the death of Norman Hardy last year.

Coun Riding said: “I have moved to Manchester because I have been fortunate enough to get a job at Salford University as a lecturer in social work. It’s a great opportunity and I have been commuting but it’s just got to be too much.

“It’s part of the reason why I gave up the children’s portfolio as most of the meetings were held during the day. I swapped it for the health portfolio but they also held meetings during the day and I had my constituents to care for.

“I told Simon [Blackburn] that I felt I couldn’t give 100 per cent. It was a very difficult decision because Blackpool is where my heart is, but I also have to think about my job.”

Coun Riding said she had already decided she wouldn’t stand for election again, but said after comments made by members of the Conservative party about her absence at meetings she started thinking about stepping down.

Coun Tony Williams, Blackpool’s Conservative party deputy leader, said: “I wish Sarah the very best of luck. She has done a great job since she came into the council in 2010, but I know she has been struggling to get to meetings because of her work in Manchester.

“This is the third resignation for the Labour party within 12 months. One resignation is unfortunate, two is a surprise, three is a trend.”

Coun Riding said she was leaving Blackpool with a heavy heart.

“I love my ward and I love the people and being able to help them, but I can no longer give them 100 per cent,” she added.

Coun Blackburn said: “Sarah and I have talked about this at length over the past few weeks but sadly we both concluded that her work and caring commitments meant that she was unable to continue.

“Sarah has been a first-rate representative of the people of Talbot ward and she will be sadly missed by them and by us in the Town Hall.

“I have called by-elections in Hawes Side, Layton and Talbot and anticipate that these will be held on European Election day – Thursday May 22. This means that as well as getting an increased turnout, barely any additional expenditure will be incurred by the by-elections, as the polling booths, boxes and staff will be there already. To to have a stand-alone local by-election would cost around £8,000.”