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Liberal Democrats hold on to Cottenham in South Cambridgeshire District Council by-election

Additional reporting: Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter

The Liberal Democrats have retained their control of Cottenham following the South Cambridgeshire District Council by-election.

Cllr Eileen Wilson. Picture: Chris Sidell
Cllr Eileen Wilson. Picture: Chris Sidell

Cllr Eileen Margaret Wilson, who won 864 votes, held off a challenge from her closest competitor, Conservative candidate Francis Morris, who earned 678 votes.

Cllr Wilson joins fellow Liberal Democrat Annika Osbourne in representing the Cottenham ward, which also covers Rampton.

The turnout for the by-election was 39.33 per cent. It was called following the death of the former Liberal Democrat councillor Dr John Loveluck.

The by-election was seen as a test of the support for the ruling Liberal Democrats amid controversy over plans for a congestion charge in Cambridge. The district council is one of the authorities that make up the Greater Cambridge Partnership, which is behind the plans.

In the Northstowe by-election in November 2022, the Conservatives won one of the two seats from the Lib Dems, who held on to the other. The Tories called it a “political earthquake” and a clear verdict on proposals for road charging in Cambridge.

In Cottenham, the Conservatives significantly narrowed the gap from the 2021 election, compared to which the Lib Dems’ share of the vote was down 21 per cent, while the Conservatives’ share rose 12 per cent - a swing of 17 per cent. No Labour candidate stood in 2021, which may have benefitted the Lib Dems then. This time around, Thomas Hingston stood for Labour, and opposed the congestion charge, and won 373 votes.

It was not enough for the seat to change hands and Cllr Wilson returns to represent the ward following earlier service.

Cllr Wilson told the Cambridge Independent: “I am very pleased to have been elected to serve on South Cambridgeshire District Council and to represent the residents of Cottenham and Rampton alongside my colleagues Cllrs Osborne (district) and Cllr Gough (county).

“During my previous term as district councillor from 2018 to 2022, I strove to be open and to keep residents informed. I listened to their concerns and acted on them.

“I intend to build on this and on the work of the late and much missed Cllr Dr John Loveluck.”

Cllr Pippa Heylings (Lib Dem, Histon & Impington), the party’s Parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire, added: “This was a much deserved by-election win in Cottenham. Congratulations to fellow Liberal Democrat, Eileen Wilson, and commiserations to all those who stood for election.

“The results show the huge respect that the community has for Eileen and this is very much a result of her hard work previously as a former district councillor.

Newly-elected Cllr Eileen Wilson and Pippa Heylings, Parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire
Newly-elected Cllr Eileen Wilson and Pippa Heylings, Parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire

“It is so good to see her representing Cottenham and Rampton once again at the district council together with Cllr Annika Osborne; and also with county councillor Neil Gouch.

“This result also honours the memory and legacy of much-loved John Loveluck who sadly passed away only months after being elected last May. John loved being a district councillor and was particularly passionate about conserving nature and green spaces in and around Cottenham.

“We are all reflecting on the many conversations we had on the doorsteps during the last few months. There is definitely no sense of entitlement among us Lib Dems and we are listening very hard to the issues being raised by local residents.”

The leader of the district council, Cllr Bridget Smith, paid tribute to Dr Loveluck, describing him as an “outstanding man whose passion and commitment to his community and residents was second to none”.

Cllr John Loveluck
Cllr John Loveluck

The win for the Liberal Democrats means the district council is now made up of 35 Liberal Democrat councillors, nine Conservative councillors, and one independent councillor.

Cllr Smith said: “I am absolutely delighted that Eileen Wilson is going to be a district councillor in South Cambridgeshire for the second time.

“I think it demonstrates the faith and confidence people in Cottenham have in the Liberal Democrat-run administration.

“I know that Eileen was a fabulous district councillor last time she did it and I know she will be fabulous again, and will go on to provide a suitable legacy for Cllr Dr John Loveluck who very sadly died in the new year; he had left a large pair of boots to step into.”

Cllr Wilson will represent the ward until May 2026 when all of the seats on the district council will be up for election again.

Full results

  • Oliver Fisher, Green Party – 107
  • Thomas Mark Hingston, Labour – 373
  • Joseph Francis Morris – Conservative – 678
  • Joanne Katherine Pilsworth, Independent – 52
  • Eileen Margaret Wilson, Liberal Democrat – 864 – ELECTED

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