Croydon and Sutton by-elections triggered as two South London councillors resign within 24 hours

Two South London councillors have resigned within the space of 24 hours triggering by-elections in Croydon and Sutton. Conservative Croydon councillor Jade Appleton and Labour Sutton member Sheila Berry handed in their resignation letters to the respective councils, triggering by-elections on May 2.

Appleton, who was elected as the ward councillor for Park Hill and Whitgift in 2021, handed in her official resignation letter to Croydon Council on Sunday (March 24). Appleton had already stepped down from her various committee roles before her resignation.

In her resignation letter, Appleton cited ‘a change in work commitments’ as the reason that she could no longer fulfil her duties as a councillor. Appleton works as a director at a London marketing agency.

Read more: Croydon fly-tippers caught on camera dumping truck loads of rubbish at infamous site

Jade Appleton sitting on a bench sideways looking at the camera
Jade Appleton became Councillor for Park Hill and Whitgift following a 2021 by-election
(Image: Croydon Conservatives)

Appleton rose to the position following the resignation of her Tory predecessor Vidhi Mohan in 2021. She then proceeded to win 52.5 per cent of the vote in the 2022 local council elections, which also saw Jason Perry take the role of Executive Mayor.

In her statement, published on X, Appleton said: “Following much consideration I can confirm that I have today submitted my resignation letter to the Chief Executive of the Council.

“I strongly believe that dedication, time and care are essential to effectively fulfil the role of a local councillor. Due to a change in my work commitments I no longer feel available to commit to the time required to deliver the standard deserved by local residents and our community. It has been an honour to have had the opportunity to serve the ward I call my home. Thank you for providing me with the opportunity to do so. I am especially grateful to all the residents across Park Hill and Whitgift who have taken the time to contact me, meet with me or work with me over the last few years.”

In response, both fellow Tories and one Labour councillor congratulated her on her service. Councillor Luke Shortland said: “Even though I knew this was coming it’s still sad to see the day finally arrive.”

While Labour councillor Christopher Herman said: “Sorry to read this. I’m sure your residents will be sad to see you step away. Good luck in all your future endeavours.”

Croydon Conservatives had already picked Appleton’s potential successor before she announced her departure. Croydon resident and barrister Andrew Price will now stand at the by-election that is due to take place on the same day as the London Mayoral and London Assembly elections on May 2.

Sheila Berry writing in a book at a desk
Sheila Berry was one of the first three Labour councillors elected in Sutton in almost 20 years
(Image: Sutton and Cheam Labour)

Over the border in Sutton, councillor Sheila Berry announced her resignation. Berry, who is the Deputy Leader of the three-strong Labour group in Sutton, announced that she is standing down as ward councillor for St Helier West on Monday (March 25)..

A former mayor of Epsom and Ewell, Berry was elected in the most recent council elections in 2022. Her win alongside Sheldon Vestey and Dave Tchill of Hackbridge meant she was among the first three Labour councillors elected in Sutton in almost 20 years.

Her St Helier West ward is considered a marginal seat that all three major parties hotly contest. Her resignation will be closely observed by both the incumbent Tory MP Eliot Colburn and Lib Dem councillor Bobby Dean, who will be his main challenger once a general election is called. The results of the by-election could be a useful indicator of their respective chances at the general election.

In an official statement following Berry’s resignation, Dean said: “We are ready to stand up for the residents of St Helier and will be fighting this by-election to win.

“The Conservatives are trying to force through cuts to A&E and maternity services at our local hospital and we need a strong local champion to fight our corner. The Liberal Democrats have a proud history of serving the people of St Helier and we will be hoping to elect a councillor to continue that legacy of service.”

Another onlooker will be Lib Dem councillor Barry Lewis, who will take the role of Council Leader on May 20 following Ruth Dombey stepping down. This by-election will effectively act as the first test of his leadership.

Sutton’s Labour group issued a statement to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) on Berry’s behalf. Charlie Mansell, Secretary of the Sutton Labour Campaign Forum, told the LDRS: “Since 2022 circumstances have changed for Sheila and as a result she judged standing down at this point was the right thing to do as it would save the council £20,000+ on a by-election at another time.

“This is very important to her constituents when services are being severely cut and rationed by the actions of this Tory Government and the inactions of the Lib Dem council. Labour will fight this by-election on key issues such as the cost of living and housing crises, protecting St Helier’s A&E and investing in its future and the need for urgent action on local refuse collections and fly-tipping.

“This seat was held by Labour and Conservative councillors in 2022 and is going to be a battle between them with the Lib Dems in third place in this ward. The Tories are discredited and divided nationally and in disarray locally after their leading light Paul Scully MP announced he was standing down.”

Sutton Labour told the LDRS they will announce a candidate this evening, following a ‘proper local selection process involving local applicants’.

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