Candidates bemoan poor turnout in by-election to replace controversial councillor

Coun. Neville Padgett

Coun. Neville Padgett

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CANDIDATES in the Washington East by-election have criticised voters who stayed at home instead of heading to the polling stations.

Labour’s Tony Taylor was voted onto to the seat vacated by disgraced party colleague Neville Padgett in the Sunderland City Council by-election.

But just 23.4 per cent turned out to vote – 2,026 people out of a total electorate of 8,672.

Coun Taylor took home 775 votes, ahead of the runner-up, Conservative Hilary Johnson, at 595 votes.

Following closely behind the Tory came UKIP’s Alistair Baxter, with 506 votes.

Green Party candidate Tony Murphy received 93 votes, while Liberal Democrat Stephen O’Brien came last at just 52 votes.

Ms Johnson said: “We did better than we did last time, we increased our share, we had a four per cent swing. But all I really want to say is that I was so disappointed with the turn-out – 23.4 per cent is pathetic. Less than 400 voted on the day in the polling stations.” 

Mr Baxter said: “It was disappointing. I was hoping to be in second.

“It was alarming that so few people even bothered, 75 per cent didn’t do anything. That really questions the validity of the whole process.”

Former ward councillor Neville Padgett announced he was standing down in October, citing health reasons. The news came after he had taken flak over claiming more than £26,000 in expenses in just two years.

It emerged late last month that Mr Padgett has been ordered to repay some of the money but it is not known how much.