Northampton Town Council leader left 'furious' after Conservatives call £20,000 by-election but FAIL to submit candidate's papers on time

"It's going to cost about £20,000. That's a lot of money for the town council. I am absolutely furious."

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 11:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th August 2021, 11:56 pm

The Northampton Town Council leader is furious with the Conservative party for calling a by-election, which is costing the taxpayer close to £20,000, but then failing to field a candidate.

Leader Jane Birch, of the Labour party, confirmed on Thursday (August 26) that the Tories have not fielded a candidate for the Talavera ward by-election on September 2.

The by-election was called after Labour's Lorraine Chirisa was elected as town councillor for the Talavera ward following the poll on May 6. However, she did not sign a declaration of acceptance in the required time. The error led to this by-election.

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Town council leader Jane Birch (top left), Cllr Meredith (top right), Cllr Hill (bottom left), Lorraine Chirisa (bottom right)

Councillor Birch said her party had been calling for a co-opted election which would mean the next Labour candidate would fill the position of Ms Chirisa. The next Labour candidate in line was Janice Duffy, who received just 70 votes fewer than Ms Chirisa.

However, Councillor Birch said despite her warnings against calling a by-election due to the cost involved, both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were 'adamant' there should be one.

Councillor Birch said both parties had argued this was the 'cost of democracy'.

This second by-election needed 10 people from the area to request it. Councillor Birch said eight of those who requested it were Conservative, the other two were Liberal Democrat Councillor Dennis Meredith and his wife.

Councillor Birch said: "I think it's disgraceful. The Conservatives called the election. The town council could have easily co-opted a councillor.

"We could have co-opted but the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats were adamant we had an election.

"It's going to cost just less than £20,000. That's a lot of money for the town council. I am absolutely furious.

"If we had been pragmatic and not political, we would have done the sensible thing but no, everyone wanted to have an election which is a huge amount of expenditure. We could have avoided this.

"I just think it's a distraction when we have so much to do at the town council. It's a huge distraction. That money spent on this election, I would much rather it was spent making a difference to the lives of local residents."

Councillor Meredith responded to Councillor Birch's claims saying: "This was caused by the Labour party because they didn't sign the forms the first time."

He said he had no recollection of any mention of co-opting.

He added: "We wanted an election because it's all about democracy. What price is democracy?"

There are three candidates standing at the by-election including the Liberal Democrat's Jackie Fuchschuber, Labour's Marianne Kimani, and Independent's James Thorpe.

Representatives of the Conservative party were approached for comment but have not yet responded.