The Labour Party has won its first council by-election in Stoke-on-Trent since 2003, winning 62% of the 750 votes cast. Lynn Watkins held the seat for Labour with 469 votes, City Independents candidate Sharon Edwards came second with 143, and Conservative Matthew Bridger third with 138.
Bentilee and Ubberley by-election
The by-election was called following the resignation of Stephen Funnell, who had held the seat since 2015. At the time of his resignation, Funnell said that he had decided to step down after having “reflected on the differences within my own party on a constituency basis”.
Speaking to the Sentinel, newly elected councillor Lynn Watkins attributed her success to the fact that she had strong family links to the ward, and she understood the challenges faced by people living there.
Also speaking to the Sentinel, Labour group leader Jane Ashworth said the result showed people were “fed up” with the Conservative government and its policies. She added that if the government continues to “penalise people who work hard who live in Stoke-on-Trent then the Conservatives will be voted out in the city”.
Only 10.76% of those residents eligible to vote turned out to choose their councillor. Even allowing for the historically low participation in local government by-elections this is below the city average of 30.25%.
This suggests a significant level of apathy amongst voters, making it difficult for representatives of all parties to establish a working mandate.
The result does not change the overall political situation in Stoke-on-Trent where the Conservatives have control of the holding 22 of the 44 seats, Labour have 12 seats, the City Independents six, and there are three other Independent councillors.
Campaigning was suspended following the death of the Queen. Lynn Watkins will have to face the electorate again in May 2023 when local elections take place across the country.