Worthing – town politics transformed – Paul Falcini

Anyone joining Coast and Country’s campaign day in Worthing on the 2nd April  has the opportunity to be a part of making history; Labour taking control of the town for the first time ever.

Worthing is a tightly bounded urban borough with two parliamentary constituencies East Worthing and Shoreham and Worthing West (both formed 1997 and always Tory). There are two CLPs but no Local Campaign Forum/Local Government Committee. 

The Borough has a population of 110,000 and despite its reputation the age profile is close to the national average.

Key variations in population profile and dwellings are summarised below.

 Age 16-29Age 65+Social grade C1Social grade DEDwelling type FlatDwelling type Semi-detatched

Before 2017 the Labour Party hadn’t held a single Council seat for 40 years. Since the Borough was formed in 1973 the Conservatives have had control for 38 years, the Lib Dems 7 years and NOC 5 years. The present Conservative administration started in since 2004 although overall control was lost in 2021. The current Council is 17 Conservative, 17 Labour, 2 Liberal Democrat, 1 Independent.

Our first win was a by-election in Marine Ward in 2017 when Dr Beccy Cooper was elected. In May 2018 there were wins in Broadwater, Central, Heene and Selden wards. The 2019 elections saw a further five gains, second seats in those four wards plus a win in Gaisford ward.

May 2021 saw the campaign teams facing County and Borough elections including the crucial defence of Labour Group leader Beccy Cooper’s seat in Marine. Despite poor results nationally the results in Worthing were amazing. Beccy was re-elected with 47% of the vote and Broadwater, Central, Heene and Selden wards became clean sweeps for Labour with a further seat in Gaisford. This took us to 15 seats to the Tories 19.

The County results were even more exciting as Labour had never won County divisions in Worthing. In 2017 we had been close in East and Pier divisions and both were won, along with three other seats. In a dramatic climax to the count the formerly Lib Dem held division of Tarring was won by 24 votes in a three way fight.   

This was only part of the political drama in 2021. Shockingly Conservative Councillor Tim Wills of Marine ward was identified by Hope Not Hate as an active supporter of white supremacist group Patriotic Alternative. A vigorous public campaign led to his resignation from the Council. In the resulting by-election Labour won with 50% of the vote. During that campaign a Lib Dem Councillor crossed the floor to join Labour and a Conservative councillor was suspended for offensive social media posts. 

This year we are defending 4 seats, aim to win the third seat in both Gaisford and Marine, and are targeting two more wards, which would give us a clear majority.

Politics is never dull here so please come and see what’s going on.

Paul Falcini, Worthing West CLP VC Campaigns      

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