Three candidates have put their names forward to be the next councillor for the Stoke-on-Trent ward of Bentilee and Ubberley.
The seat will be contested by Matthew Bridger (Conservative), Sharon Edwards (City Independent), and Susan Watkins (Labour).
A by-election was called following the resignation of sitting councillor Stephen Funnell in August.
Stephen Funnell had held the seat for Labour since 2015 and during his time on the council held several positions including chairing the Human Resources and was a member of the Audit Committee.
At the time of his resignation, he said that he thanked the residents of Bentilee and Ubberley for the “privilege of having been able to serve them.”
However, having “reflected on the differences within my own party on a constituency basis”, he said he had come to the decision it was time to “step aside”.
Bentilee and Ubberley is a two-member ward, the other seat is also held for Labour by Sheila Pitt and in the 2019 local elections Funnell polled 20.8% of the vote.
The council in Stoke-on-Trent is currently controlled by the Conservatives with 22 of the 44 seats, Labour hold 12, the City Independents have six and there are three unaligned members.
Whoever wins the seat in Bentilee and Ubberley will serve for less than a year before having to face the voters again on 4 May, 2023.
The resignation of Funnell comes at a time when the Labour Party in Stoke-on-Trent is facing internal disagreements over the decision to select Gareth Snell as the candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency at the next general election.
Snell held the seat from 2017 to 2019, when he lost it to Conservative Jo Gideon by 670 votes in a result that was part of the collapse of Labour’s ‘red wall’ in the North and the Midlands.
Concerns about the selection process have been raised by ten members of the Stoke-on-Trent Central Constituency Labour Party (CLP) in a letter sent to the party’s national complaints team.
These include that the selection committee was consisted of people who predominantly supported Snell and that this meant they had a “serious” conflict of interests.
The letter, a copy of which was published on the news site Skwarkbox calls for the selection process to be re-run with Snell barred from participating.
There is no suggestion that the controversy over the selection of a candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central was one of the ‘differences’ within the party that prompted Funnell to step down.
What is clear though, having to contest an unexpected by-election and settle a potential rift within its ranks, puts Labour in Stoke-on-Trent on the back foot when they might have hoped to be making gains.
The by-election will take place of Thursday 22 September.
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