LABOUR has won a council by-election that has deprived the Conservatives of overall control for the first time in over two decades.

Vicki Wells beat her Conservative candidate Syed Ahmed by 267 votes in the election in the Marine ward for Worthing Borough Council.

The by-election was sparked after suspended Conservative councillor Tim Wills resigned amid claims by an anti-fascist campaign group of links to a far-right organisation.

Speaking to The Argus, Ms Wells said she was "absolutely delighted" by the result and said the public were "rightly outraged" by the circumstances in which the by-election was called.

She said the result should send a "clear, unambitious message" to the Conservatives that they can no longer take voters for granted.

"They have been complacent for too long and the way they treat residents, other communities and other demographics that make up our communities in this part of the country must stop now," Ms Wells said.

On Twitter, Labour MP for Hove and newly appointed Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Kyle said: "Labour's coastal town victory in a previously ultra-safe Tory ward is a credit to Vicki and group leader Beccy Cooper for their energised and emphatic campaign."

Full results of the Marine by-election

Vicki Wells, Labour - 1,239

Syed Ahmed, Conservative - 972

Sonya Mallin, Green - 145

Emma Norton, Liberal Democrats - 112

The result means Labour and the Conservatives have an equal number of councillors on the council.

Both parties now have 17 seats, the Liberal Democrats have two and there is one independent. Nineteen seats are needed for an overall majority.

The Conservatives can now seek to continue as a minority administration or power could transfer to Labour.

The Tories last lost control of the council in 2002 to the Liberal Democrats. The current administration has been in power for 17 years.

Ms Wells said the party's focus is now on the upcoming local elections in May in Worthing, where members hope to gain some of the eight Conservative seats up for election.

She said: "The local elections in May are going to be very significant and Marine ward typifies the grassroots, positive and progressive change that I believe is reflecting across the whole of Worthing.

"Were we to do very well in May, then for the first time ever Worthing could become a Labour-controlled council."

She said that should Labour be able to take control of the council, it would hope to bring passion for the environment, as well as helping frontline workers and tackling the cost of living crisis and the mental health crisis in the town.

"We're ready - we're all ears and action," she said.

The result marks a resurgence of Labour support in recent years in the town, after Beccy Cooper became her party's first representative on the council for four decades in another by-election in Marine ward in 2017.

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