CONSERVATIVES have condemned the cost of the upcoming Dodington by-election as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Labour, who called the election, are keen to test whether there has been a shift in political allegiances in the Yate and Sodbury area since the general election.

But Conservative council leader Matthew Riddle believes the cost of the vote, approximately £8,000, would be better spent elsewhere.

“It is quite disappointing that the local Labour Party have pursued this costly parish election, with the bill being footed by local taxpayers,” he said.

“It is often normal for parish councils to be able to agree cross-party to fill the vacancies in between elections. As the leader of the council I am often contacted about residents’ wishes to see road safety improvements or new bus shelters in the area, so it’s a shame that the Labour party seemed so determined to waste money by calling for a by-election.”

Labour, however, have rejected Cllr Riddle’s concerns.

Mike McGrath, secretary of Thornbury and Yate Labour party, said: “It is not a waste of money, it is an important part of the democratic process.

“Dodington Parish Council is currently dominated by a group of councillors with very similar political views. So if the two new members were to be decided internally, they would be chosen by this very tight knit group.”

The parish council’s current make-up is seven Lib Dems, four independents, one Labour member and one Tory.

Two vacancies have arisen on the council following the death, in May, of Cllr Cliff Phelps (Liberal Democrat) and the resignation, for personal reasons, of Cllr Keeley Barrett-Waines (Independent).

“Our membership has been increasing ever since Jeremy Corbyn became leader and we’re looking to gain seats in South Gloucestershire in 2019. The Dodington election is a measure of what people think of Labour in the area, although it’s not an ideal test, as the Lib Dems have decided not to stand, which is very disappointing.”

Three candidates have chosen to stand for the election: Sarah Hurley (Labour), John Malone (Labour) and Jon Shaw (Conservative).

Paul Hulbert, a Lib Dem councillor currently sitting on Dodington Parish Council, explained that the Lib Dems had chosen not to field a candidate as no-one suitable is available at this time.

He said: “Our likely candidates for future elections are not available at the moment, due to work or family commitments. It’s quite a busy parish council and being a councillor in Dodington requires a fair amount of time to be done properly.

“We didn’t want to field a candidate who couldn’t make a proper commitment at the moment.”

He added: “But we all work together for the good of the local community and it is an extremely co-operative parish council. Usually party political lines don’t come into it.”

The Dodington by-election is set to take place on August 24.