A BY-ELECTION has been called in Stifford Clays following the passing of Diana Hale.

The chief executive of Thurrock Council, Graham Farrant, called for the election owing to the “tight political balance” at the council.

A Notice of Vacancy was published on Wednesday, September 11, and the council will now enter a full period of purdah, meaning most council meetings will not go ahead between now and the election.

The polls will open to those living in the ward at 7am on Thursday, October 17, and close at 10pm.

Sue Shinnick has been announced as the Labour candidate.

The Gazette understands Danny Nicklen, a former ward councillor for Stanford East and Corringham Town, is set to be the Conservative candidate after standing down before the last election to go travelling.

The Liberal Democrats have also signalled their intention to put up a candidate.

Mr Farrant said: “Given the tight political balance within the council I propose we treat the pre-election period as being the same as if it were a full council election and we have a formal pre-election period.

“There is no specific requirement to cancel meetings, but in my view I believe it will smooth the administration of the council during this sensitive period.”

Ms Hale was Labour councillor for the Stifford Clays ward from November 2007. Before her passing, Labour held 25 seats on Thurrock Council and the Conservatives 21. UKIP have one member while the other two, both representing East Tilbury, are independent.

In 2011, Ms Hale was re-relected to the Stifford Clays seat with a majority of 354 and in 2010, Angie Gaywood, also a Labour a councillor, pipped Tory Tom Kelly to the seat by just 76 votes.

During local elections in May, UKIP gained more than 100 seats across the country and they are expected to put up a strong fight in October.

The Conservatives will also see this as an opportunity to eat into Labour’s majority.

In recent elections, votes for Labour and the Conservative party have been evenly split. Up until 2007, both Stifford Clays seats were held by Conservative members.

Nominations for people to stand close at noon  on Friday (September 20).