LABOUR is celebrating victory in the Besses by-election.

Candidate Lucy Smith successfully defended the Whitefield ward by some 291 votes more than her nearest challenger, Conservative Jordan Lewis.

Speaking to the Bury Times after winning the seat vacated by Elizabeth Fitzgerald  in June,  Cllr Smith said she was looking forward to putting her pledges into action.

She said: “I feel very honoured that the people of Besses have trusted me to do the work I have promised to do, I want to get working straight away to deliver the promises I’ve made.”

The new ward councillor added that her priorities included improving policing as well as  defending children’s centres, walk-in centres and schools’ funding.

She added: “We all know Tory cuts are killing communities like Besses and we are going to stand up to them as a community.”

At 23.6 per cent the turnout was lower than when former Cllr Fitzgerald retained the seat in 2016 (30.8 per cent) and at the last full round of local elections in May (28.6 per cent).

But Cllr Smith said she was satisfied with her margin of victory. She said: “It’s a good solid indication that people trust Labour to care about them and be on their side in these tough times.

“It was a small turnout, and an awkward time for a by-election, but we have worked hard - and the opposition has worked hard - to engage people.

“It’s a lower turnout than we would have wanted, but a lot of people came out on a beautiful summer’s day to exercise their democratic right and bring me into the council.”

Deputy council leader Andrea Simpson said the Labour group was delighted with Cllr Smith’s victory.

She said: “We really welcome the experience that Lucy brings to Labour and also to Besses. We look forward to working with her and delivering on her priorities in Besses.

"She will make a great councillor and she will work hard – she worked exceptionally hard in this campaign - and has a lot of experience campaigning and in communities and we will be richer for it.”

Cllr Simpson, who is also a Besses ward councillor, acknowledged that the Tories had campaigned hard too, which was reflected in their ballot box performance. But she added that the relatively low turnout probably also had an effect.

Tory candidate Jordan Lewis said he was hugely encouraged by the result.

He said: “I’m absolutely delighted to get a 12 per cent swing (from 2016) in five weeks, it’s absolutely unreal. It shows that Conservatives are out there in Besses and this might be the start of something – who knows where it will end?

“Whitefield can’t be taken for granted any more. For many years it’s been neglected, parts of it look like they have not been touched since the 1960s, and the pressure is now on for change.”

He added that he was “very proud” of his team. He said: “They worked exceptionally hard and took everything with a smile on their face, I couldn’t ask for better.”

The turnout was 23.6 per cent.

Besses ward by-election result

Lucy Smith (Labour) - 999

Jordan Lewis (Conservative) - 708

Stephen Morris (English Democrats) - 72

Gareth Lloyd-Johnson (Liberal Democrat) - 71

Michael Swierzanski (UKIP) - 49

Glyn Heath (Green Party) - 55