WOKING’S Liberal Democrats suffered a rough ride on Friday night – just as their party colleagues did across the country the night before.
Tina Liddington (Hermitage & Knaphill South) and Louise Morales (Old Woking) both lost their seats to Tory challenges, while local party leader Will Forster was made to sweat on the safety of his Kingfield & Westfield ward: clinging on to his place in the Council Chambers by just 49 votes.
Ms Liddington, who has been a permanent fixture in the council for more than a decade, says that after the dominance of the Conservatives on a national scale, the writing was almost on the wall.
She explained: “There were 29,000 people who came out and voted for Jonathan Lord. Everybody knew he would win, but 70 per cent of the vote is a huge amount and if you split that between the wards it’s going to give the Conservatives a good majority, which we’ve seen in both the General and Local Elections.
“But also there has been a huge increase in the Labour, UKIP and Green vote, which we’ve never had before.”
The disappointment of defeat will not faze the former mayor who insists she will be back to contest the 2016 election, a vote which will see a complete reform of the council.
“Next year everybody’s up for re-election so we are going to need lots of councillors,” she said. “Now is the time, whatever party, if people are interested in becoming a councillor to come forward because all of the parties are going to need 30 people to put up as councillors.
“As I’ve always said, I consider myself a community councillor and like to help people with local issues. There are a lot of families growing up who need rehousing and there just aren’t enough two and three-bedroom homes for them to move into. And it makes it very difficult and frustrating that you can’t help.
“I would like to thank everybody who has helped me in this campaign and all the campaigns over the years, and all the friends that I’ve made and all the people I’ve met along the way.”
Meanwhile, Councillor Forster (below, left) has thanked residents for their backing after a ‘tough 24 hours’ for the Lib Dem Party.
“I’m positively delighted to be re-elected as councillor,” he said. “It shows that some of my residents really appreciate what I do for them even though the Liberal Democrats had quite a tough time over the last 24 hours.
“The Conservatives asked for a bundle check because the count was within 49 votes but [after a review] it looked as if it was perfectly acceptable and that got withdrawn and I was declared the winner.
“I’m a big champion for my area. There is a lot of concern over the potential Rydens Way development; lots of issues in the local community regarding the scale of development; problems over a lack of infrastructure; and issues on flooding.
“I try to assist residents with whatever problems they have and I will continue to be a champion for Kingfield, Westfield and Barnsbury on the council.”
Cllr Forster also saluted the work of outgoing Cllr Morales who was replaced in the Old Woking ward by Tory John Lawrence – just 19 votes separated the two candidates. Cllr Forster described himself as ‘gutted’ when the announcement was made.