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Conservative victory in Cambridge City Council by-election is ‘overwhelming rejection’ of ‘hated’ congestion charge, claims MP





Additional reporting from the count by Hannah Brown, Local Democracy Reporter

The Conservative councillor elected to Cambridge City Council has said he is “honoured” by the by-election victory, which an MP has argued represents an “overwhelming rejection” of the proposed congestion charge for Cambridge.

Cllr Mohamed Delowar Hossain has been elected for the Conservatives to Cambridge City Council in a by-election in King's Hedges, held on July 4, 2023. Picture: Hannah Brown, LDR
Cllr Mohamed Delowar Hossain has been elected for the Conservatives to Cambridge City Council in a by-election in King's Hedges, held on July 4, 2023. Picture: Hannah Brown, LDR

Mohamed Delowar Hossain - known by his middle name - became the first Tory on the Labour-run city council for 11 years, and the first ever to represent King’s Hedges, after defeating Labour candidate Zarina Anwar by just 24 votes in Tuesday’s poll.

It was held after Labour’s former deputy leader, Cllr Alex Collis, resigned.

Cllr Hossain said: “I feel very honoured to be elected as a councillor for King’s Hedges ward and I feel this gives people a voice who need to be heard.

“I will be very active, I will work with all the community, and the whole of Cambridgeshire, whose voice was not heard and I want to raise their voice about the congestion charge, the road closure, the potholes.

“I want to be active day and night. I previously mentioned, I am a taxi driver, I am out day and night, and my residents can get me 24/7. I do not need any certain day for my surgeries, my surgeries are open for everyone for any day.”

A graph of the voting in King's Hedges, from our political commentator Phil Rodgers (@PhilRodgers)
A graph of the voting in King's Hedges, from our political commentator Phil Rodgers (@PhilRodgers)

Cllr Hossain secured 622 votes, with Labour’s Zarina Anwar coming in second with 598 votes. Liberal Democrat Jamie Dalzell was third with 418, while the Green Party’s Elizabeth May secured 142 votes.

The Labour leader of the city council, Cllr Mike Davey, said he was “obviously very disappointed” by the result, adding: “We had an excellent candidate in Zarina, but clearly we were unable to persuade people in King’s Hedges to vote for us in sufficient numbers.

“Just really sad, sad for the candidate, and sad for the outcome.

“I have already passed my congratulations on to the winning candidate, but as you will probably imagine we are going to reflect on what has happened and have a think, because there are clearly some key issues that we need to have a real proper think about.”

Cllr Mike Davey, Labour leader of Cambridge City Council. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cllr Mike Davey, Labour leader of Cambridge City Council. Picture: Keith Heppell

Cllr Davey took over from Cllr Anna Smith in a surprise move from Labour following the May 5 elections, in which the Tory vote surged amid anger about the proposed congestion charge. The Conservatives were unable to secure a seat, however, in May.

The decision to switch leaders led to the by-election as it prompted Ms Collis to resign, just 10 days after being re-elected to represent the ward in the May 5 poll.

Ms Collis had been a councillor at the authority since 2019, and had also been a member of the executive, responsible for overseeing plans for open spaces, food justice, and community development.

In a statement on her resignation, she said she was “devastated”, but was “unable to remain part of the current city Labour group”.

Following the by-election result, Anthony Browne, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire, said it was time for the congestion charge proposals to be scrapped.

The Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), which is controlled by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors, is amending its proposals for a weekday charge from 7am-7pm to drive in Cambridge, which would pay for an improved bus network, following majority opposition to the plans voiced during the Making Connections consultation.

Its options could include providing free access to hospital patients, a certain number of ‘free’ days, or altering the hours of operation are being considered.

Mr Browne said such measures would not convince the electorate.

Anthony Browne, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire. Picture: Keith Heppell
Anthony Browne, the Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire. Picture: Keith Heppell

He said: “Congratulations to Delowar and his team for a phenomenal victory, both in the by-election and in the battle against the hated congestion charge.

“The residents of King’s Hedges have spoken loud and clear, using their votes to reject the so-called ‘mitigations’ put forward by the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

“The overwhelming rejection of these feeble attempts to appease the public shows that Cambridge residents are not fooled by half-hearted measures. It is a clear call for the Lib Dems and Labour to scrap the entire scheme and abandon the congestion charge once and for all.

"After the historic Longstanton victory in 2022, the close race in Cottenham, and the huge swings to the Conservatives across the city in May, this is the fourth electoral nail in the congestion charge’s coffin.

“For their own sake, Labour and Lib Dems should listen and ditch this dreadful driving tax."

Turnout in the by-election as 26.7 per cent, down from 31 per cent in the ward in May.

King’s Hedges by-election results

Zarina Anwar, Labour – 598
Jamie Leon Dalzell, Liberal Democrats – 418
Mohamed Delowar Hossain, Conservatives – 622 ELECTED
Elizabeth Alice May, Greens – 142

New make-up of Cambridge City Council

Labour – 26 seats
Liberal Democrats – 10
Green Party – 4
Independent – 1
Conservative – 1



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