Arun ‘must start listening’ to residents, says double Bognor by-election victor

Matt Stanley, wearing a Lib Dem rosette, won the Bognor Regis Town Council and Arun District Council Marine ward by-elections
Matt Stanley, wearing a Lib Dem rosette, won the Bognor Regis Town Council and Arun District Council Marine ward by-elections

The Liberal Democrats candidate who celebrated a double by-election win on Thursday hopes Arun District Council will see his party’s success as a message from the community.

Matt Stanley took Marine ward from the Conservatives at both district level and on Bognor Regis Town Council, with the Tories relegated to third in the district poll.

The Lib Dem double built on the party’s by-election success in November, when it gained the Aldwick West seat from Arun’s ruling party.

But it could not secure a hat-trick of election victories on Thursday, as Labour took the previously Independent Hatherleigh town council seat by 17 votes.

Mr Stanley said: “Generally speaking people feel quite disengaged with Arun District Council. They don’t feel like they are really listening to the concerns that they are raising.

“What I hope Arun has heard loud and clear is that they have to start engaging with the community, start consulting and respecting their opinions and answering some of the questions being asked of them.”

Just over a fifth of the electorate turned out to vote in the district by-election, with 309 votes enough to secure Mr Stanley’s win.

Labour’s Alison Sharples was second on 252 votes, while Kate Eccles was third for the Tories ten votes behind.

Independent candidate Steve Goodheart registered 141 votes.

The same candidates battled for Labour, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives in the Marine town council election, with Mr Stanley prevailing on 319 votes.

The town poll, however, saw Labour beaten into third by eight votes.

Mrs Sharples said: “It was great to talk to so many local people about what matters to them and to follow up those issues. My work will continue now, along with our Labour team which is dedicated to serving the community to build a better Bognor Regis for everyone.”

Regeneration and housing developments were the chief concerns of voters, according to Mr Stanley, who works in Bognor town centre as a building society manager.

He referenced plans for the linear park on the Hothamton car park site as ‘the straw’ that prompted him to stand for election, with a small number of residents attending a consultation event shaping the council’s decision to progress its vision.

He said: “I went to the linear park consultation and if that was a green light to spend £3.5million that concerns me. I think there is always a moment where you think ‘I have got to do something about it’.

“It was when I thought I have to try to get involved.”

The Marine elections were triggered following the death of councillor Dougal Maconachie in December.

The death of his wife, Jacqui, four months earlier, prompted the Aldwick West by-election also won by the Lib Dems.

Hatherleigh ‘honour’

Labour’s Damien Enticott has described his by-election victory in the Bognor Regis Town Council ward of Hatherleigh as an ‘honour’.

He gained 46 votes, ahead of Liberal Democrat Francis Oppler on 29 and the Conservative hopeful Christopher Hartley on five. Turnout in the small ward was 22.5 per cent.

He said: “It’s a real honour to represent Hatherleigh as a Labour Councillor on the Town Council. I will get to work on the issues I have campaigned on and others that have been raised with me. From the bigger picture on town regeneration to the issues close to home, like cluttered and dangerous alleyways, I will be there to get action for Hatherleigh ward residents.

“I will keep in touch with the community that I know so well with regular surgeries and I will work with other local councillors wherever there is common ground and benefit for the town and its residents.”

The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Independent Dan Barnes.