LIBERAL Democrats believe the ruling Conservatives at Somerset County Council have been given a ‘wake-up call’ after losing yesterday’s by-election at South Petherton.

Paul Maxwell won the seat for the LibDems by securing more than 50 per cent of the 2,488 votes cast in the election.

The Conservative vote dropped from 1,341 in May 2009 to 943 as candidate Paul Thompson failed to keep the seat for the Tories following the resignation of Anne Larpent.

LibDem Yeovil MP David Laws has congratulated Cllr Maxwell on his decisive 390-vote victory.

“Congratulations to Paul on his very impressive election victory,” he said. “Paul secured a stunning win, by turning a majority for the Conservatives of almost 100 votes into a majority for the local LibDems of nearly 400.

“I believe that Paul has been so successful because people can see just how hard he works, and because he has stood up against some very damaging Conservative policies, such as trying to close our waste centre in Crewkerne and the Library in South Petherton.

“Paul’s win sends a very clear signal to the Conservatives in County Hall that they are losing the support of the public in Somerset, and they need to change course.

“I look forward to working closely with Paul in the future to serve the people of the South Petherton County Division.”

Cllr Maxwell said: “I am delighted with this result, and would like to thank all those who supported me. I now aim to represent every single person in this area, regardless of their political views.

“I believe that this result is a wake-up call to the Conservatives on the County Council, who have been implementing some very damaging policies such as closing waste centres and libraries, and axing rural bus routes. I will stand up for this area, and make the case for different priorities at County Hall.”

The Conservatives still hold an eight-seat majority at County Hall with 33 councillors and the LibDems having 23 and two Labour.

Full by-election result: Paul Maxwell (LibDem) 1,333; Paul Thompson (Conservative) 943; Ian Greenfield (Green Party) 108; Godfrey Davey (UKIP) 104. The turnout was 42 per cent.

Return to this website later for Conservative reaction to yesterday's by-election.