Labour councillors have been at the forefront in promoting the need for action to combat climate change. In Hastings we have set an ambitious target of working to become carbon neutral by 2030 and Labour county councillors successfully argued the case in East Sussex.
It helped get the message through to voters: that it is possible to act on climate change at a local level.
But it is ironic – if not surprising – that the Greens appear to be, in Hastings at least, the chief beneficiaries of this awareness. The Greens are now the third largest party in the borough and pose a challenge to Labour in a handful of seats.
Hastings saw the election of the town’s first Green county councillor in Julia Hilton; although it wasn’t as emphatic as her borough win: she pulled ahead of Labour’s Ruby Cox by just 112 votes: 1,125 to 1,013.
Commiserations to Ruby, who fought hard to retain the seat vacated by Tania Charman.
It was not easy, particularly with Covid restrictions, to match the resources put in by the Greens. And their relentless focus on the Old Town paid off. At the last county election, in 2017, Hilton had scraped in third with 284 votes to Tania’s 1,414.
She is joined by three new Green councillors from Lewes, Ringmer & Lewes Bridge and Forest Row & Groombridge.
Of course, climate change was only one factor for voters, and many would not have considered it at all. The challenge for the Greens at county level is not only whether they can move the dial further on climate change action. It is this:
Are the Greens also willing to put their energies behind Labour’s progressive agenda, including more resources for adult social care?
Labour remains the third largest group on the 50-seat council.
Godfrey Daniel, Phil Scott and Trevor Webb decisively beat off Conservative challenges. And they will be joined at county by two new Labour councillors, Christine Robinson, and Christopher Collier, who defied national trends to win two east-of-Brighton seats, Telscombe and Peacehaven.
The Tories are still in control, although down from 30 to 27 councillors. The Lib Dems remain on 11 seats; Independents 3.
The county council results in Hastings & St Leonards were as follows:
Labour’s Godfrey Daniel retained Braybrooke & Castle with a 867-vote margin: 1,633 votes over the Conservatives 766 – with the Greens (693) taking third place. The Lib Dem vote slumped to 201.
Phil Scott was re-elected for Labour in Hollington and Wishing Tree with 1,198 votes – 311 more than his Tory rival, HBC opposition leader Andy Patmore (887). The Greens took 190 votes; the Lib Dems 101.
Labour’s Trevor Webb retained Central St Leonards & Gensing with 1,453 votes – 621 more than the Green candidate (832), who beat the Conservatives (757) into third place, the Lib Dems taking 203 votes.
It was a far closer contest in Old Hastings & Tressell, where Labour’s Ruby Cox narrowly (-112) lost to the Greens: 1,013 votes to 1,125. The Tories took 757; the Lib Dems 90.
In Baird & Ore, despite a vigorous campaign by Ali Roark, the Conservatives held the division by 1,188 votes to 937 – the 251-vote margin reflecting gains made by the Tories in the borough wards of Baird and Ore and also the higher Green vote (268). The Lib Dems won just 78.
A vigorous campaign by Labour’s Margi O’Callaghan in St Helens & Silverhill held the Tories to almost the same margin of victory as in 2017, despite this time a strong national swing in their favour. They retained the division by 405 votes: 1,591 to 1,186. The Greens got 419 votes; the Lib Dems 194.
The Conservatives held on to Maze Hill & West St Leonards with 1,447 votes to Labour’s 707. The Greens took 354 votes; the Lib Dems 179.
In Ashdown & Conquest, the Tories held the division with 1,609 votes to Labour’s 629; the Lib Dems for once ahead of the Greens by 235 votes to 219.