THERE was much talk of UKIP causing a ‘political earthquake’ at Thursday’s local elections – but the results revealed the big winners in Worthing to be the Conservatives.
The Tories gained four seats – in Castle, Northbrook, Gaisford and Selden wards – and held a further six.
Meanwhile UKIP, who were expected by many to cause an upset, lost one seat (Castle) and held another.
Speaking after the votes had been counted, the leader of Worthing Borough Council, Paul Yallop, said he was ‘delighted’. “It’s a superb result,” he added.
“The only political earthquake today was Diane Guest elected in Heene.
“If people think Nigel Farage says it how it is, I ask people to wait and see how Diane Guest gets on, because she’s a really strong lady and I’m really excited to see her contribution.”
UKIP candidate Pauline James said the party would look to build on the progress it had made this year as it looked ahead to next year’s general election.
“If you look at the margins they were very small, it seems to be between 20 and 50 votes,” she said.
“Our membership has increased this year so we are not despondent.”
Phil Ruddock, chairman of UKIP’s West Worthing branch, added that the ‘good’ results the party had received around the country would put it in a good position going forward.
The overall turnout for the elections was 34.44 per cent, with postal votes making up 11.47 per cent of that figure.
Despite the Conservative party’s success, it did narrowly miss out on securing victory in both the Durrington and Central wards. UKIP candidate Susan Jelliss defeated Steve Waight by 36 votes in Durrington, while James Doyle received nine votes more than Alex Harman to become Worthing’s first Green councillor.
Mrs Jelliss said: “I am thrilled and over the moon that I’m the first UKIP councillor to be elected in Worthing West. It was a very pleasant surprise and I hope I can help the people of Worthing.”
Mr Waight said he felt the result was a reflection of a national matter rather than local issues.
He said: “I’m obviously disappointed as an experienced councillor who worked hard in the ward and would have worked hard for the people of Durrington.”
The Liberal Democrats lost four seats in the elections and gained none, with Bob Smytherman, Worthing’s current mayor, being the only Lib Dem councillor to hold their seat.
A tearful Mr Smytherman saw off the UKIP surge in Tarring to win by 47 votes. He said: “I am sorry to my Lib Dem colleagues who have lost their seats today but I am grateful to be a Lib Dem, who will hold the administration to account.
“It’s a huge relief, it’s been a really difficult campaign this year.”