Double by-election row as second Lancaster councillor quits

Matthew Mann.
Matthew Mann.

The leader of Lancaster City Council has hit back after a colleague’s resignation sparked jibes from political rivals.

Eileen Blamire spoke out after the Tories said the timing of Coun Matt Mann’s resignation caused a needless by-election and wasted public money.

Coun Charlie Edwards.

Coun Charlie Edwards.

The Conservative group claimed a by-election to replace Labour councillor Mann, who is leaving the area, could have been held simultaneously with the poll to replace Coun David Smith who resigned last month to move to Yorkshire.

But Coun Blamire said a vote for Mr Mann’s seat in the University and Scotforth Rural ward had to be delayed to give new Lancaster University students chance to register to vote, and until after existing student voters returned to university after the summer break.

Lancaster City Council has stepped in to clarify the issue by saying there would be no cost saving even if both by-elections were held on the same day.

Mr Mann, who was elected in 2015 and was chairman of the council Audit Committee, officially resigned this week.

Tory councillor Charlie Edwards then put out a statement on behalf of the Conservatives saying they were “furious” because Mr Mann knew “months ago” he would have to move, claiming he could have resigned earlier to avoid a separate by-election.

“Part of Coun Mann’s job was to scrutinise wasteful spending,” said the statement.

“It costs between £8,000-£12,000 to run a full by-election; this is a serious amount of money that could be prioritised on vital services for the people who need it the most.

“The Lancaster Labour Party keep on telling us how strapped for cash they are. Yet they seem happy to waste public money. It is letting our residents down.”

Coun Blamire said Mr Mann had informed them of his wish to resign earlier this year but the Labour group was advised to wait until the new university term to make it official.

“They are bringing the new electoral register forward so we can hold the by-election 
before the end of the year,” she said.

“If we could have held the two by-elections together, we would have done.

“I just find it incredible that (Charlie) is saying this without ringing me. I would have explained it to him.”

A spokesman for Lancaster City Council said holding two by-elections on the same day would make no difference to cost anyway.

“Electors are allocated to polling stations that are positioned within their own polling district, and as such polling stations cannot be combined geographically in order to seek to reduce costs.

“The cost for running two by-elections in different wards of the city council would therefore be the same if they were held on two different dates, or both held together on the same day.

“The cost of a by-election depends on a number of factors, including the type of election, the number of polling stations, the electorate and the number of postal voters. This varies from case to case.”

The by-election to find a successor to Coun Smith in Westgate, Morecambe, takes place today.

Mr Mann was unavailable for comment.