NEWLY-elected Washington East councillor Tony Taylor has thanked the ward’s electorate for helping him retain the seat for the Labour Party.
He also denied claims that the 23.4 per cent turnout for last Thursday’s by-election was so low that it called the credibility of the result into question, pointing out that it was only four per cent down on the last comparable poll.
Coun Taylor, of Teal Farm in Washington, takes over from controversial Labour colleague Neville Padgett after securing 775 votes, placing him ahead of Conservative Hilary Johnston, on 595 votes, and the UK Independence Party’s Alistair Baxter, on 506.
Both his defeated rivals criticised the low turn-out by voters. Ms Johnson branded it pathetic and Mr Baxter said it was disappointing and called into question the validity of the whole process.
“It is disappointing to hear some of the other candidates have bemoaned the low turnout,” Coun Taylor said.
“While the turnout this time was 23.4 per cent, it is only down slightly from 27.6 per cent from when the last Washington East by-election was contested in September 2007.
“I doubt if the Conservatives bemoaned the low turnout on that occasion.
“The result clearly demonstrates that the vote for UKIP has peaked and that neither the Conservatives nor UKIP have been able to engage with the electorate in the way the Labour team have been able to do.”
He added: “I would like to offer my sincerest thanks to the electorate of Washington East ward for turning out to vote for me on what was a very cold December day and so close to Christmas.
“As I now have the privilege of being elected as their local Labour councillor, they can be assured that I will carry on the excellent work that the Labour team in our area has done and will continue to do on their behalf.
“There is no doubting that I now have a huge responsibility given such challenging times ahead, but I am determined to repay the trust of those who voted for me and earn the support of those who didn’t.”
Mr Padgett, of Houghton, stood down in October following controversy over his expenses claims, blaming his departure on health issues.