Tories buoyant following latest Blackpool election results
This month marks 10 years of Labour control at Blackpool Town Hall – but recent election results suggest there is growing support for the Conservative Party among residents.
Last week the Tories comfortably won two Blackpool Council by-elections, while the majority of those in the resort who voted in the Police and Crime Commissioner election on May 6 also supported the Conservative candidate.
At the last Parliamentary elections in December 2019, Labour’s Gordon Marsden lost the Blackpool South seat to Scott Benton meaning Blackpool now has two Conservative MPs.
It’s a trend which has buoyed up party members in the town who believe they will wrestle back control of the council from Labour in two years time when the electorate gets its next chance to go to the ballot box.
But it’s said a week is a long time in politics, so two years could see all kinds of changes as yet unforseen.
Certainly the Labour group expects huge investments it has introduced during the last decade to begin transforming Blackpool’s economic prospects.
These include the opening of a new conference centre at the Winter Gardens which will restore year-round visitors, the completion of the tramway extension to improve transport links and the opening of a new Holiday Inn hotel in 2022.
Neverthless Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group on the council, says there is “a growing feeling” his party will take control next time around.
He said: “The recent by-elections have strengthened that belief, not just the fact we gained a seat and retained another, but by the size of the win and the support from residents when we were campaigning.
“Looking at the percentage difference it's quite clear that former Labour and other party voters chose Conservatives this time.”
Conservative candidates Bradley Mitchell and Julie Sloman both polled more than half the vote at the by-elections helping their party retain the Highfield seat and win back Norbreck which had become independent.
Tory Andrew Snowden, who was elected as the new Police and Crime Commissioner for Lancashire, received 13,088 votes in Blackpool ahead of Labour incumbent Clive Grunshaw with 9,994.
Coun Tony Williams is confident he has a set of councillors who can take forward the belief being shown in them by voters at the moment.
He said: “I can honestly say the current group of Conservative councillors are some of the most talented people I have had the pleasure of working with.
“They come from a variety of backgrounds and businesses with lots of commercial experience and collectively we have never been more co-ordinated, focused and community minded as we are right now.
“We want to concentrate on key areas in Blackpool that have been neglected and overlooked for years.
“Blackpool isn’t just the Promenade and the town centre, there are vibrant communities living in neighbourhoods that deserve much better treatment and a more attractive environment.
“As the current council continue to build more concrete blocks in the town, they are failing to address some of the basic, root problems that still exist in our streets.
“Whilst I agree the town needs investment, we really should be cleaning up the canvas of anti-social behaviour, rising crime, open drug dealing, homelessness and violence before we try and paint a rosy landscape.”
Council leader Lynn Williams has been in charge since last July when she took over the role after Coun Simon Blackburn stepped down earlier last year.
While disappointed with the by-election results, she feels they partly reflected national feelings and hopes the hard work of her administration will pay off at the ballot box in two years time.
Coun Williams said: “We were disappointed because we had two candidates who would have made excellent councillors.
“But I think the outcome reflected the national mood and we will continue over the next two years to listen to our residents and work hard for Blackpool.
“Two years is a long time and we intend to continue improving our communities and despite the past year being a very strange and difficult one, we have continued to see investment come into the town.
“Work has begun on phase two of the Talbot Gateway and we are preparing for phase three which will bring office development to the town centre.
“The Blackpool Central development is also progressing. We have been able to continue that investment in the town despite what has happened.
“We also have things like the Kickstart Programme (which encourages employers to take on young people), and the multiversity project which will also help our residents get the skills they need.
“So there is a lot happening in Blackpool, and during our campaign we got out there and spoken to a lot of our residents. We will continue to listen and fight for Blackpool.”
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