Bilton Lib Dem candidate's pledge to live up to Geoff Webber's legacy as by-election looms

The Lib Dems have named local campaigner, businessman, and former councillor Andrew Kempston-Parkes to fight the Bilton & Nidd Gorge by-election in the county council elections.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 12:38 pm
The Lib Dems candidate in the Bilton by-election Andrew Kempston-Parkes: "Geoff Webber was a fantastic local councillor. His boots are very big ones to fill, but I will work my hardest to do just that."

Selected unanimously, Andrew Kempston-Parkes previously served as councillor for Bilton on Harrogate Borough Council, with what he says was a proud record of protecting and investing in green spaces, and working with residents to get results for the community.

The by-election for the Harrogate Bilton and Nidd Gorge division on Thursday, May 6 follows the death of Lib Dem councillor Geoff Webber.

Mr Kempston-Parkes hailed Geoff Webber as a "fantastic local councillor" and said, though he had "very big boots to fill", he pledged to work his hardest to do just that.

Andrew Kempston-Parkes said: "Geoff Webber was a fantastic local councillor; hard-working and committed to public service. He spent his life driven by fairness – fighting to lift people up and give them the best shot at life.

"Geoff's boots are very big ones to fill, but I will work my hardest to do just that. I will listen to community all year round and actively work to bring residents into the process.

"Bilton and Nidd Gorge division is a very special community to me. As Bilton's councillor, I worked hard to not only protect green space, but also to invest in it. I fought alongside residents to defend Bachelors Field from Conservative housing plans, and worked to get the investment to make it the beautiful place it is today.

"Our green space is under threat from Harrogate's Concrete Conservative Council which has thrown up houses left-right-and-centre, without the community. Meanwhile, these developments haven't come with nearly enough infrastructure investment – turning Skipton Road into little more than a car park, as class sizes increase and doctors' waiting times get longer.

"I believe a brighter future is possible for Harrogate. I will work tirelessly with councillors Matthew Webber, Trevor Chapman, the local Liberal Democrat team, and the whole community to see positive change."

Lord Phil Willis, former MP for Harrogate & Knaresborough (1997-2010) said: "Geoff Webber's hard work and sheer commitment helped save the Royal Hall and provide the Hydro Swimming Pool. In his final hours he was fighting to get nurses free parking at the local hospital and helping provide a more permanent base for the town’s homeless people.

"I want to see a similar hard working and dedicated councillor follow in Geoff’s footsteps and Andrew Kempton-Parkes fills that role ideally.

"He will not be there to further his own ends but there to be residents' voice as we all face the difficult task of recovering from the Covid pandemic."

On recent history, this by-election may end up as a close race between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservative Party.

At the last election in 2017, the second candidate for each party received the following number of votes:

Liberal Democrats – 1,285

Conservatives – 1,207

Labour – 544

UKIP – 378

The 2021 candidates in full

The Conservatives announced Harrogate borough councillor Matt Scott as their candidate.

Mr Scott said: "I am a lifelong Bilton resident and represent the Bilton Woodfield ward on Harrogate Council

"The important issue in this election is who can we trust to be the champion for our community. I hope local people will look at my record and decide that is me."

The Lib Dems have chosen Andrew Kempston-Parkes, former councillor for Bilton on Harrogate Borough Council, who said he would be fighting to protect Bilton's green spaces under threat from housing plans.

Tyler Reeton will stand in his first election for the Labour Party.

The 19-year-old candidate said, who is co-founder of a local community group, said: “I want to be a fresh voice for Harrogate and, as a young person, I am passionate about making Bilton the best place to live now, and also for many years to come."

The Yorkshire Party’s John Hall will also stand in the by-election.

He previously stood as a candidate for the Thirsk and Malton constituency in 2019 and also for the Harrogate Starbeck seat on the borough council in 2018.

One Independent is standing, Harvey Alexander who lives in North Rigton, who also contested the seat for UKIP in 2018.

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