Published: 09:41, 17 December 2021
| Updated: 15:43, 17 December 2021
Labour councillors are celebrating after their party retained a seat on Medway Council in a by-election yesterday.
Residents of Rochester East were asked to vote in the poll following the death of Cllr Nick Bowler in October.
Labour's Lauren Edwards was declared the winner late last night following the ballot count at the council's headquarters, Gun Wharf.
Cllr Edwards, who is a financial regulator at the Bank of England and lives in the area she now represents, won by 482 votes from her closest rival, Conservative candidate Brian Griffin. She joins Cllr Teresa Murray representing the ward.
The turnout was 18.17%.
She said: “I look forward to joining forces with Cllr Teresa Murray to deliver my pledges to improve Rochester East.
"I also look forward to helping make Labour’s aspirations for the Towns a reality - a thriving and sustainable community, where everyone can realise their potential, supported by well-run and well-funded local services.
“There is at present much distrust of elected representatives due to the behaviour of the prime minister and his Conservative government.
"In contrast to their example, I will do my utmost to demonstrate my competence, integrity, and respect for - and adherence to - rules, so that I may be a trustworthy and effective local representative for the people of Rochester East.”
Medway Labour Group's deputy leader, Cllr Murray, said: “This election was called in tragic circumstances.
"Nick was a fantastic councillor in Rochester East and was loved by people of all political stripes in Medway. He will be missed by our entire community.
“I’m grateful that my new ward colleague has all the attributes to be a successful representative of our area, and my assessment of her capabilities was evidently shared by the people of Rochester who have overwhelmingly endorsed her at the ballot box today.
"The size of her victory is reflective of an increasing desire from people in Medway to choose change by choosing Labour.”
Cllr Edwards - who has lived in Clive Road for the past five years - says during her campaign, people raised issues including their ability to book GP appointments, making sure alleyways were safer, getting more street lights, and ensuring streets are cleaner.
The 38-year-old, who is a former trade union rep, said: "I'm interested in having a proactive cleaning schedule so that it isn't about residents having to spot these problems and report them all the time, but actually having a system in place to make sure the area is regularly cleaned. Obviously people want to live in a nice, clean community and there's not enough bins and there's there's not enough cleaning that is visible to residents.
"I think the GP appointments issue was one that was definitely a priority.
"I want to really see about getting solutions to that. I know that there are short-term solutions so you can have a new booking service and that kind of thing, but I suspect there's also quite structural issues, as well as more longer term things that we need to look at. For example, what's the age of the GPs that we have in the area? Are they coming up to retirement age? Do we have a good succession plan to make sure that we have enough GPs in the area for the growing population?"
The by-election came on the same night The Liberal Democrats overturned a huge Tory majority to win the North Shropshire by-election in a seismic victory that will pile further pressure on Boris Johnson.