LibDems given extra time to campaign in Belmont by-election

More allegations of gerrymandering have emerged from Sutton Council, as BERTIE WORCESTER-PARK reports

Sutton CEO Niall Bolger: farewell gift for his LibDem chums

Lawyers have been consulted to see whether Sutton Council has acted in breach of electoral law over the lengthy delay in the staging of a ward by-election in Belmont.

The by-election has been called following the resignation in August of Tory councillor Patrick McManus. But Liberal Democrat-controlled Sutton is not holding the by-election to find a replacement councillor until October 25.

“It is Niall Bolger’s farewell gift to Ruth Dombey’s LibDems,” a Sutton Council source told Inside Sutton, referring to the council’s CEO. Bolger has recently handed in his own resignation from Sutton Council.

McManus’s resignation as a councillor was announced on August 31. The required letter calling for a by-election to be held was submitted the following Monday, September 3.

Under Section 89 of the 1972 Local Government Act, where a vacancy occurs as a result of the resignation of a councillor, the polling date for the by-election must be fixed within 35 working days after notice being given by two electors to the returning officer, which in this case is Bolger.

That would make the latest possible polling date for this by-election as Monday October 22; with elections in England usually being held on Thursdays, that suggests that the Belmont by-election ought to be held on October 19 at the very latest.

But Sutton Council says it needs 38 working days in which to organise a one-ward by-election. Last year, Theresa Mayhem’s General Election across the whole of the United Kingdom was staged just 36 working days after it was triggered.

Dean Juster: Ruth Dombey’s preferred LibDem candidate

Bolger’s council officials claim that they are working on the Belmont by-election trigger date as September 10, even though the call for the election was submitted seven days earlier.

A source in Sutton Labour said, “It could have been possible for the by-election to have been on October 11. But they have gone for the latest possible legal date they could. We can only assume the LibDem administration has not pressed officers for an earlier date because they want some extra time to campaign in the ward, and try to win back one of the 12 council seats that they lost in May.”

The Conservatives are yet to formally announce who will be their candidate in Belmont, though it is widely expected to be Neil Garratt, the former deputy leader of Sutton Tories on the council… until he lost his seat at the local elections in May.

Labour has started its campaigning in Belmont, with candidate Marian Wingrove (centre)

The LibDems are expected to name Dean Juster as their candidate. A Belmont resident, Juster stood in his home ward in May but polled only half as many votes as the third-placed Tory candidate.

Labour is the first party to have their candidate nomination form accepted by the council, having selected Marian Wingrove, who also lives in the ward and stood for election four months ago.

A retired maths teacher, Wingrove said, “I work as a volunteer charity advisor helping older people.

“This work means I am very aware of the concerns faced by many Sutton residents of all generations. Poverty, poor housing and social isolation all impact on family life.”

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