Liberal Democrats hold Sutton as Conservatives make small gains

The Liberal Democrats will remain in full control of Sutton council after claiming 29 out of a possible 55 seats at Thursday’s local election.

It became clear at around 3am that the Liberal Democrats would remain firmly in control of Sutton council, however Labour secured the biggest successes of the night as three of their councillors were elected for the first time in the area for two decades.

Despite the drop from 33 seats in 2018 to the current 29 for the Lib Dems, the result was welcomed as a success by the party’s candidates, who predicted a tighter contest with the Conservatives.

The Tories who held their existing seats and gained two, claimed the newly created North Cheam ward for themselves bringing their total councillor count to 20, making them the second biggest party.

The remaining seats of the council were claimed by two Labour representatives and three independent candidates, the latter of which held their positions in the Beddington ward.

Following the announcement of the result, Ruth Dombey, who will remain leader of the council, said: “I am absolutely delighted that the Liberal Democrats have won a historic tenth term.”

Bobby Dean, an elected Lib Dem councillor from The Wrythe ward, said that his party had been campaigning on both local and national issues.

As OnLondon’s Dave Hill put it, “Sutton’s Lib Dem hegemony is the product of campaigning and local activism rather than demographics”.

However, Dean said the Lib Dems also took aim at Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the failings of the national government during their campaign.

“We have to work twice as hard” he admitted.

Surprisingly, talk of the national government and its mishaps was not the main talking point of the night.

The votes being counted at Sutton

Instead, the million pound loss-making, council-owned district heating network known as the SDEN came up regularly.

The newly elected Labour councillor Sheldon Vestey said that both Sutton Labour and Tories agreed that a further investigation into this local scandal was needed.

Vestey, along with David Tchilingirian, were all smiles on the night after being elected as the councillors for the newly elected Hackbridge ward.

Boundary changes in Sutton led to the creation of Hackbridge in the east and North Cheam in the west.

Despite his important win, Vestey left the count early with his wife who was also running as a Labour candidate in the neighbouring St Helier East ward and their four-month-old baby.

He predicted his own victory, rocked his baby in a buggy and left the venue without a sound.
In his absence, Sutton Labour spokesperson Charlie Mansell said: “We’re over the moon with the result.”

Although the Tories did not perform badly on the night, there was an expectation they would be able to capitalise on the failings of the Lib Dems on the SDEN network among other things.

This was clear from the notable presence of Conservative MP’s Paul Scully and Elliot Colburn at the count. The two were elected as the representatives for Sutton and Cheam and Carshalton and Wallington in 2019 and 2015 respectively.

The Tories did make inroads into the previously Lib Dem held St Helier area. Two of their councillors were elected to the St Helier West, previously St Helier, ward alongside a single Labour candidate.

St Helier West was one of the borough’s four split wards, the others being Sutton North, South Beddington and Roundshaw and Belmont.

At the time of writing, Richmond-upon-Thames had also registered a Lib Dem whilst neighbouring Kingston-upon-Thames is also projected to remain Lib Dem.

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