TORIES are set to lose their majority on Littlehampton Town Council come next month’s parish election.
The Conservatives, who are the current majority leaders, are fielding fewer candidates than ever before in the town’s local election.
The party is gambling on only five prospective councillors across just three of the town’s eight wards up for contention.
It means that, even if all the Tory candidates were to be elected, the party would only hold just five of the council’s 15 seats, come next month.
Long-standing Liberal Democrat Beach ward councillor Dr James Walsh was surprised by the move.
“They’ve just thrown away their majority before the election,” he said.
Tories are contesting just Beach, Brookfield and Courtwick and Toddigton Wards, with candidates including former mayor Emma Neno (Beach), Jill Long (Beach), Marian Ayres (Courtwick/Toddington), Alan Gammon (Brookfield) and Mick Warren (Broofield).
The move has been described by current Ham Ward Labour councillor, Mike Northeast, as bizarre.
“They have been the majority group on the town council for years. To now not field candidates in each ward and give up that majority is something I find very strange.
“This is not good for the electorate. We keep being told that this election will be the closest one on record but for Littlehampton, that’s just not going to be true.”
Councillor Malcolm Belchamber (Independent) was stunned by the news. He felt the Tories’ membership had declined significantly leading to a drought of candidates.
“The party organisation has definitely fallen apart,” He said. “I don’t know whether people have lost heart or not. They used to have a massive membership at one time. But now there’s just a very small committee.”
Conservative councillor Alan Gammon conceded that numbers had dipped in the party, with three resignations and one person changing parties since 2011.
However, he said: “Local government is grass roots politics, the Conservatives have a fine track record to deliver as high level as possible of the council’s services and provide value for money for council tax payers.”