New by-election rumpus after 15 per cent turnout

A MAYOR lashed political rivals after last week’s low-key by-election in Mirfield – but claimed the right candidate won.

Coun Vivien Lees-Hamilton (Con, Hopton) criticised UKIP for calling the poll in the Eastthorpe ward.

Conservative nominee Paul Blakeley got more votes than the other two candidates put together on a turnout of just 15.37 per cent.

He polled 212 votes to 91 for Labour’s Thimme Gowda and 57 for UKIP’s James Griffith-Jones.

In total 361 people voted, including one spoiled ballot paper. Coun Blakeley took 59 per cent of the vote.

The vacancy was triggered in October by the resignation of Labour councillor Gary Bunton, who quit for a dream job down south.

Coun Lees-Hamilton said: “This matter should have been for co-option, which would have been like a job interview. It’s disappointing nobody talked to the town council about co-option.  Instead, they went straight for the ‘nuclear’ option of a by-election.”

A by-election poll in Battyeford in August, which featured rancour between Tories and Labour, cost taxpayers about £10,000.

The town council’s income is about £46,000 a year, which comes from a precept paid by Mirfield residents.

Coun Lees-Hamilton said: “I wasn't surprised by the turnout given it’s the run-up to Christmas. Also, the brouhaha over the last by-election, even though this is Eastthorpe, not Battyeford, may have put people off.”

Despite the poll controversy, Coun Lees-Hamilton believes the town council got the right man.

She said: “Paul has a proven track record of community involvement – and we were looking for someone who fitted that role.”

Coun Blakeley is on the Mirfield Show committee, a member of Mirfield Round Table, takes part in the Mirfield pantomime and is a scout leader with the 8th Mirfield (St Mary’s) group.

The council is now focusing on matters including the asset transfer from Kirklees of their offices on Huddersfield Road.

But Coun Lees-Hamilton said: “I’m not quite so relieved. I’m holding my breath in case something else happens to another councillor.”

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