Three candidates line-up for Ely South by election to East Cambridgeshire District Council

Candidates for Ely South by election (from left): Sarah Bellow, Chrstine Whelan and Rebecca Denness

Candidates for Ely South by election (from left): Sarah Bellow, Chrstine Whelan and Rebecca Denness - Credit: Archant

Part of the city goes to the polls again this week as a by-election caused by the resignation of Tom Hunt to become political adviser to Mayor James Palmer is held to fill the vacancy in Ely South.

Chrstine Whelan

Chrstine Whelan - Credit: Archant

Mr Hunt topped the poll in 2015 and with his Tory colleague picked up both seats on East Cambridgeshire District Council with a turn out of 71 per cent.

The Tory grip on the district council is formidable and, apart from the current vacancy, they hold 35 of the 39 seats, with two Liberal Democrats and one independent.

Thursday’s poll sees three candidates from the main political parties hoping to pick up the Ely South seat.

Local campaigner and caseworker, Sarah Bellow, is the Conservative choice and has signalled out the A10 upgrade and other vital improvements such as the new leisure centre and the Princess of Wales Hospital among her objectives.

Rebecca Denness

Rebecca Denness - Credit: Archant

Sarah was born nearby in Prickwillow and went to local schools. She has lived in and around Ely her whole life. She is married with two grown up sons.

She ran her own furniture business, before training as a money advisor for Citizens Advice Bureau.

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Since then she has helped thousands of local people learn about money matters and solve debt problems. Through CAB, Sarah has dealt with issues facing families in social housing and with problems accessing public services.

Recently she has been a caseworker and now works part-time for Care Network Cambridgeshire helping to set up and sustain local groups who assist people to live more fulfilling and independent lives.

Sarah Bellow

Sarah Bellow - Credit: Archant

Labour is fielding Rebecca Denness, who believes local people have realised that austerity simply doesn’t work for the majority of ordinary people.

She says the services we rely on for our quality of life have been cut and are being cut again.

“The workers we rely on, the police, fire-fighters, nurses, teachers and council workers, have their wages capped at just one per cent,” she says. “Whilst the Conservatives on East Cambridgeshire District Council have voted themselves a huge 24 per cent increase in their allowances.

Rebecca lives in West Fen Road with her family and her sons attend Ely St John’s School and Ely College. Previously she worked for the Department for Education and is presently retraining to work in psychology.

“Education is my passion and I am concerned about the underfunding of our schools. I will use my position as councillor for Ely-South to lobby for fairer funding,” she says.

Christine Whelan is standing for the Liberal Democrats; she was narrowly beaten by the Conservatives in the Ely South division in the May elections for the county council.

Christine lives in one of the many areas of Ely built during the last twenty years.

“I am standing for the District Council because I want to make Ely an even better place to live,” she says.

“The city has doubled in size in twenty years but the infrastructure we need has been neglected by the Conservative-run councils.

“People need a third doctors’ surgery in Ely so that waiting times, of up to five weeks at St Mary’s, fall significantly.

“We need more school places as some Ely children are having to go to Witchford and there are more houses about to be built.

“And we need to improve the A10 and public transport to Cambridge.

Two years ago, Christine was elected as a member of Ely City Council. She recently voted against the plans to redevelop the market square.