Norfolk and Suffolk Election 2021: Lib Dem leader quits in North

Steffan Aquarone

Steffan Aquarone retained Melton Constable division, but stepped down as Liberal Democrat group leader. - Credit: Steffan Aquarone

The Conservatives made some inroads into north Norfolk in this week's elections for Norfolk County Council.

The Tories gained Wells and Holt from the Liberal Democrats, while North Walsham West and Erpingham went from Tory to Lib Dem control. 

It means the Conservatives now control six north Norfolk divisions, the Lib Dems have four and an independent has one.

And Steffan Aquarone, while retaining Melton Constable division, announced he was standing down as group leader of the Lib Dems. 

He said: “I’m very sorry to say with a heavy heart I’m stepping down as group leader of the Liberal Democrats on Norfolk County Council. I cannot personally support our position on the Western Link any longer.”

Mr Aquarone said the party’s support of the planned road had been decided by a vote at a conference last year. 

“I am totally committed to solving the issue of rat-running in the west of Norwich but for me the environmental case is growing by the day. In particular we’ve noticed here in north Norfolk the green vote has significantly increased. In my seat it’s increased by 2.5 times.

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"The Green Party don’t win seats in north Norfolk but people are voting green and that sends a strong message.”

Mr Aquarone became group leader in May 2019.

He said he would expect nominations to fill the position to open tomorrow morning, and a new leader would be in place by next Saturday (May 15). 

Fellow Lib Dem Sarah Butikofer, who lost Holt to Conservative Eric Vardy, said: “I think it’s very disappointing but I’m not entirely surprised. I’ve had to be away from the office for quite a long time this year and people need somebody who can be there all the time. 

“Our green policy on the Wensum road was the wrong one. I absolutely don’t believe that we should be ripping up trees and destroying wildlife habitats.


Sarah Butikofer lost in Holt division to Conservative Eric Vardy. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

She added: "In north Norfolk we’re planting 110,000 trees over four years - how can I support planting those trees on the one hand and on the other ripping them up? I completely understand.

Mrs  Butikofer has also had a tough time personally, having lost her mother to Covid earlier in the year and also taking care of her father - who also has the disease.

“I’ve been very limited on campaigning time. Normally I’d campaign from November and I’ve literally only had two weeks. I wish Mr Vardy all the luck.”

In Sheringham, Tory Judy Oliver successfully warded off opposition from Lib Dem Liz Withington. 

Ms Oliver said pushing forward with her campaign to have a roundabout built at the top of Holway Road, and bringing a replica of the West Runton Mammoth to Sheringham would be her priorities for the coming years. 

Judy Oliver

Judy Oliver retained Sheringham division for the Conservatives. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

“It was a very close fight. I’m hoping that the next four years I can deliver the roundabout that I've been promising for quite a while. That is my key priority. 

“The roundabout is hugely important. In the summer you can sit there for ages trying to turn left or trying to turn right and it’s not safe. I think if people know they can easily come in and out of Sheringham it will encourage more people to make that journey. 

“My other big plan would be trying to do something about bringing the West Runton Mammoth back into Sheringham as a real attraction to help drive the economy.

“To have a replica, even half size, would give you an idea of what an impressive beast it was. It’s also unique in the whole world and I don’t think we make quite enough of that.”  

Ed Maxfield - who quit the Lib Dems to become an independent county councillor last September - has retained Mundesley division.

He said: “I’m delighted. It’s great news. I was just very aware that everybody who was going to vote for me was going to be doing something they don’t normally do, which is vote for an independent candidate, so I didn’t want to take anyone’s vote for granted. 

Ed Maxfield retained Mundesley division as an independent. 

Ed Maxfield retained Mundesley division as an independent. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

“It’s been a busy time getting out there. I ran on my own record and I’m looking forward to carrying on that work.

“It’s been all about the issues that a local councillor can do for an area. It’s really local issues from every street. It’s about listening to people and working with them, working with parish councils, just to try and get stuff done for people.”  

Results by division

South Smallburgh, Conservative Hold:
Nick Coppack (I) 86
Anne Filgate (G) 198
Finola Gaynor-Powell (L) 133
Richard Price * (C) 1381
Adam Varley (LD) 1165

Wells, Conservative Gain: 
Andrew Brown (LD) 916
Michael Dalby (C) 1321
Stephen Green (G) 204
Xenia Horne (L)205

Sheringham, Conservative Hold:
Ruth Bartlett (L) 171
Simon Grewcock (G)150
Judy Oliver * (C) 1590
Tony Shannocks Poet Bolster (The Official Monster Raving Loony Party) 45
Liz Withington (LD) 1157

North Walsham West and Erpingham, Lib Dem Gain:
Chris Melhuish (G) 315
Claudia Owen (L)241
Jon Payne (C) 1206
Saul Penfold (LD) 1259

North Walsham East, Lib Dem Hold:
Elizabeth Dixon (G) 191
Graham Jones (L) 218
Pauline Porter (C) 1256
Lucy Shires (LD) 1303

Mundesley, Independent Hold:
Wendy Fredericks (LD) 1052
Jasper Haywood (L) 140
Edward Maxfield * (I) 1128
Crispian Riley-Smith (C) 891
Mark Taylor (G) 109

Melton Constable, Lib Dem Hold:
Steffan Aquarone * (LD) 1490
Rebecca Shaw (L), 202
Jonathan Wilton (C) 1291
Rosie Woolgar (G) 212

Hoveton and Stalham, Conservative Hold:
Pierre Butikofer (LD) 353
Nigel Dixon * (C) 1613
Michael Filgate (G) 157
Paul Rice (I) 85
Richard Stowe (L) 274

Fakenham, Conservative Hold:
Tom Fitzpatrick * (C) 1376
Ruth Goodall (L) 371
Kris Marshall-Smith (G) 256
John Rest (I) 569

Cromer, Lib Dem Hold:
Tim Adams * (LD) 1,745
Mike Bossingham (G) 186
Richard Parker (C) 1,071
David Russell (L)  207

Holt, Conservative Gain: 
Sarah Butikofer*  (LD) 1,311,
Kay Montandon (L) 212,
Simon Russell (G) 297,
Eric Vardy (C) 1650