The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) strengthened its hold on Haverhill with victories in both of last week’s by elections.
The St Edmundsbury Council seat was won by Tony Brown, who was already a Suffolk County Councillor, while the town council seat was grabbed by Paul Firman.
Both men had more than 50 per cent of the vote in the by elections for the Haverhill East ward, held last Thursday (January 9) and triggered by the passing of Les Ager last year.
Turnout for both elections was 16.4 per cent.
Cllr Brown won 529 votes (54 per cent), more than double second placed Labour candidate and former Haverhill mayor Pat Hanlon with 240 (24.5 per cent – 12.4 per cent less votes than last time).
Tory town councillor David Roach got 157 votes (16 per cent – down 31.9 per cent), while Liberal Democrat Ken Rolph got just 54 votes (5.5 per cent – down 9.4 per cent).
Cllr Brown become the second UKIP borough councillor, joining fellow Haverhill man Gordon Cox.
“It was a comprehensive win and the main thing that came out was the extremely strong message it sends to the Conservative-led borough that the people of Haverhill don’t consider themselves to be getting a fair deal and are absolutely angry about the health centre closure, the Vision 2031 documents, the transport situation and lack of decent roads,” said Cllr Brown 53, from Minerva Close.
“People feel Haverhill is very much seen as the junior partner in the relationship with Bury St Edmunds by the council.
“For too long people have had no real way of venting their anger and that’s what had happened.
“I haven’t campaigned on national issues, I’ve campaigned on Vision 2031, on transport and the Camps Road experiment.
“I’ve lived in this town since I was two and there are things that have always needed improving.
“I’m trying to give Haverhill a better voice as St Edmundsbury has been complacent for years and years.
“I’m hoping to pressure Matthew Hancock to represent Haverhill more than he has as I can’t ever recall him standing up in Westminster and saying about Haverhill.
“Richard Spring was much more proactive and I feel very disappointed about what Matthew has achieved in the town.
“We will be putting pressure on the council to get more done in Haverhill around the Vision and planning issues and basically make sure they know Haverhill is here and not second best to Bury St Edmunds.”
Responding to Labour’s Haverhill mayor Roger André’s comments that UKIP has no place in local politics, Cllr Brown added “I have been elected by a huge majority and Roger has not been elected by anyone so to say we have no place in local politics I find quite ironic as he has been in three by elections and come third in all of them.”
A desire to improve the everyday lives of his fellow Haverhill residents motivated Paul Firman to stand for the town council.
The 53-year-old, of Girlings Close, has lived almost his entire life in Haverhill and has been a fruit and veg market trader for 25 years.
Having been elected with 630 votes compared to Labour candidate Elizabeth Smith’s 229 and the Lib Dem’s Ken Rolph’s 107 he now wants to address the issues in Haverhill he feels most strongly about.
He said: “So many things need changing. Transportation for the town is terrible. The bus routes are terrible to Bury and Cambridge and the High Street itself needs addressing, the rates for the shops are too high.
“I think you need to get a few more shops in the town.
“The health centre; the waiting list now for appointments is two weeks, surely we can change that.”
Having become the town council’s second UKIP councillor, he said: “They’ve got fresh ideas and they are the way forward.
“I’ve voted Conservative all my life but in the last few years they’ve not done anything for the town.
“I know everyone in town and I think that’s why a lot of people voted for me.”
Cllr Firman added: “I’ve got no ideas of going into this to further myself, I just want to help the town.”
For all the latest news see today’s (Thursday, January 16) Echo.