INDEPENDENT councillor Bridget Fishleigh has claimed that a split independent vote allowed Labour to win in a council by-election.

Labour’s Robert Mcintosh won the Rottingdean Coastal by-election for Brighton and Hove City Council, beating independent candidate Stephen White by 88 votes.

The Conservatives, who had been hoping to hold the seat with candidate Lynda Hyde, were pushed into third place.

Another independent candidate, Alison Wright, won 222 votes.

Cllr Fishleigh, who was elected in the same ward in 2019 and backed Mr White’s campaign, said: “I’m very disappointed to still be Brighton and Hove’s only elected independent councillor, but I wish Robert Mcintosh all the best.

“The presence of another independent swung this election, not helped by the person having a very similar-sounding surname to Stephen White.

“We reached out to this candidate and consulted with her beforehand precisely in order to avoid this outcome, but she chose to exercise her democratic right to stand.”

Cllr Fishleigh said she looks forward to working with newly-elected Councillor Mcintosh on issues in the ward, including bin collections.

She said: “Fighting for a better bin service was of course a key Labour campaign pledge.

“I am also very interested to learn about his proposals to expand park and ride to the east of the city and wondering where he’s thinking this could be located.”

The by-election was triggered by the sudden resignation of former Conservative councillor Joe Miller in March this year.

Labour’s win gives the party a total of 16 seats on the council, with the Greens on 20 and the Conservatives on 12. There are also six independent councillors.

The by-election could be the last test of support for the city’s political parties ahead of local elections across Brighton and Hove next year.

Cllr Fishleigh, who has announced plans to stand a range of independent candidates across the city in 2023, said: “This by-election has shown once again that independents can win - or at least come close and upset the apple cart. 

"So I hope that people thinking about standing as independents in next year’s city-wide elections will be encouraged to throw their hats into the ring.”

Votes are being counted in four council elections across Sussex, with results expected to be announced later this afternoon.