VOTERS in the Hexham East ward will go to the polls next month to elect a new county councillor.

It follows the resignation of Cath Homer earlier this month, and what she described as a “malicious” hate campaign against her.

The decision wiped out the Conservative Party’s majority control of Northumberland County Council, although it remains the largest single political group.

Hexham town councillor Stephen Ball is the Tory’s choice to replace Ms Homer.

Mr Ball, who was previously deputy mayor of the town for two years and was made an MBE this year for services to rugby league charities, called his nomination a “huge honour”.

He said: “Previous administrations have ignored Hexham over many years, yet local Conservatives have secured massive amounts of investment for our town.

“We have an amazing £37 million new High School, 250 more car parking places being constructed, £2.4 million being spend on our high street buildings. There is always more to do and with the help of residents I am already working to get more things done for Hexham East.”

Fellow Hexham town councillor Suzanne Fairless-Aitken is standing for the Liberal Democrats. The May local elections saw a close campaign between Ms Fairless-Aitken and Ms Homer, who has denied claims by an independent investigator she may have breached council  rules with “inappropriate” behaviour and comments to others, with Ms Homer victorious by just 130 votes.

“I am rebooting and taking back to the streets this month, where I can hopefully show residents all the positive work I have already been able to do as Town Councillor - which I have been thoroughly enjoying,” said Ms Fairless-Aitken.

“This includes regular litter picks I co-ordinate via The Hexham Wombles, trying to turn the HMS site into affordable housing and a community cycling hub, helping with the Bandstand – Music in the Park – sessions we enjoyed throughout the summer, and the Town Council ‘drop-in’ stall at the Farmer’s Market each month.”

Labour’s candidate is Jonathan Wheeler, who was first elected to Prudhoe Town Council in May.

“In that short time, I have already experienced what can be achieved collectively to improve things at a local level,” said Mr Wheeler.

“I work in the retail sector, and for many years I have acted as a Union steward for the GMB. In this time I honed my skills in problem-solving.

“It would be a privilege to use these skills to the benefit of the people of Hexham East.”

He added: “We’ve already seen the benefits in Prudhoe and Bywell of local people returning a Labour County Councillor and now Hexham can do the same.”

Lee Williscroft-Ferris, who is also a member of Hexham Town Council and who stood in the 2015 General Election, is standing as an independent candidate.

He said: “This is a crucial by-election. For too long, the Conservatives and other political parties have wrought chaos and division at local and national level.

“I am determined to use my independence to work tirelessly and exclusively for the people of Hexham East, the community I’m proud to call home.” Mr Williscroft-Ferris, who said he was standing on a platform of ‘Independence, Honesty and Community’ said he would use his position to represent residents on a “more consultative basis”.

The election will be held on Thursday, December 16.

Candidates: Stephen Ball, Conservatives; Suzanne Fairless-Aitken, Liberal Democrats; Jonathan Wheeler, Labour; Lee Williscroft-Ferris, Independent.