Monday, 10 December 2012

By-Election Preview: 13 December 2012

Andrew Teale provides the preview coverage for the only local by-election this week, taking place in Harrogate.


BILTON
Harrogate District Council, North Yorkshire; caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Alec Brown who is moving to London.

Bilton Library
  © Copyright Peter Wilson and licensed for reuse
under this 
Creative Commons Licence.
Bilton ward is the northernmost ward covering the town of Harrogate.  Described as one of the oldest areas of Harrogate, Bilton seems to have a bit of an identity of its own, with an annual gala having been held here since 1977.  Much of the northern boundary of the ward is the wooded Nidd Gorge, a local beauty spot.

The census figures suggest this is an extremely affluent area; all three of the ward's census areas are within the 20% least deprived in England, with one of them (covering the northern edge of the ward's housing and the sewage works) being in the least deprived 0.5%.

This being Harrogate, these demographics don't indicate a massively Conservative ward, for Harrogate town is a Lib Dem/Conservative marginal area.  The ward elected two Conservatives when drawn on its current boundaries in 2002, but the Lib Dems gained the Conservative seats in 2006 and 2007.  One of the Lib Dem councillors got sent to prison in late 2008 for internet grooming; sometimes this sort of thing can cause a backlash at the ballot box, but at the resulting by-election in February 2009 the Lib Dems got a swing in their favour and the ward looked safe.  The Liberal Democrat vote here grew further to reach 53.9% in 2010, but the Conservatives gained one of the seats at the most recent election here in 2011 to split the ward's representation again.

All four candidates live in Harrogate.  The Conservatives have selected Neil Bentley, who fought the neighbouring New Park ward in 2010, to hold their seat in the by-election.  His main opposition will come from the Lib Dems' Val Rodgers, who was their candidate in the town centre High Harrogate ward last year.  Andrew Gray, a solicitor, returns for Labour after standing here in 2011 and the 2009 by-election, and UKIP are standing in this ward for the first time in the form of David Simister, a former Conservative district councillor for the town's Harlow Moor ward.

Parliamentary constituency: Harrogate and Knaresborough
North Yorkshire county council division: Harrogate Bilton and Nidd Gorge
ONS Travel to Work Area: Harrogate and Ripon

Neil Bentley (C)
Andrew Gray (Lab) (@andrewgray74)
Val Rodgers (LD)
David Simister (UKIP)

May 2011 result C 976 LD 801 Lab 376
May 2010 result LD 1662 C 1241 BNP 181
Feb 2009 by-election LD 902 C 673 BNP 164 Lab 51
May 2007 result LD 974 C 877 BNP 122
May 2006 result LD 906 C 770 Lab 53
May 2003 result C 864 LD 770 Lab 66
May 2002 result C 798/776 LD 665 Lab 115


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