THE leader of the opposition on South Tyneside Council has backed a UKIP candidate who is fighting a by-election in the borough next month.
George Elsom, independent councillor for Cleadon Park, has announced his support for Norman Dennis’s attempt to win the Westoe ward on Thursday, October 2.
The by-election was called following the death of independent councillor Jane McBride last month.
Coun Elsom says the Westoe ward has a strong tradition of electing independently-minded candidates and he believes that will continue if Mr Dennis, who has pledged to vote on his conscience rather than party lines, wins the support of voters.
The hope is that a UKIP victory will help create a “united opposition” in the borough – where Labour currently holding 49 of the 54 council seats.
Coun Elsom said “As leader of the opposition I believe it is essential that an independent voice on the council is maintained in the Westoe ward. We have a very unfair electoral system as Labour holds 96 per cent of the seats in South Shields with only 40 per cent of the popular vote. This is due to the opposition not getting behind the strongest candidate but running and splitting the vote.
“Norman polled 818 votes at the last election in Westoe and came second. The opposition achieved 55 per cent of the vote and yet Labour won the seat with 45 per cent. He is the strongest candidate and he has assured me that if he is successful he will join us in opposition and put the residents of Westoe’s wishes first on every issue and will not be part of any whip system as UKIP has given him ‘carte blanche’ to vote whichever way he thinks is best.
“I hope that the residents of Westoe get behind Norman and send a clear message to the council that they are not happy with the way the town is being run.”
Mr Dennis said: “For me this election is about South Shields.
“It’s about Westoe. It’s time that the people of South Shields stood up and said ‘enough is enough’. It is for us to stand up in the chamber and make a noise.
“If I am elected we will work as a team. Yes, we will have out individual views and disagreements but we will discuss them, stand together and support each other.”
The other candidates standing in the Westoe by-election are:
* Tony Bengtsson (Green Party)
* Katharine Maxwell (Labour)
* Eddy Russell (Conservative)
* Carole Troupe (Lib Dem)