A NEW face has joined the council as the Liberal Democrats scooped a victory.

Derek Perry, 36, has been elected to represent the Vivary ward on Somerset West and Taunton Council after a by-election took place on September 19.

The seat became available after the resignation of Conservative councillor Catherine Herbert.

Mr Perry received 648 votes, more than 300 ahead of the Conservative candidate, Sharon Fussell, with 307 votes.

Robert Noakes, Labour received 32 votes, while Green candidate Marguerite Paffard got 30 votes, and Indepedent Neil Redram received 155votes.

Mr Perry, who lives with his wife and two children in central Taunton, works as a barrister, practicing criminal and regulatory law at Albion chambers in Bristol and Taunton.

He has always been interested in politics, but had never found the drive to get involved until recently.

He said: “Although I studied politics at university and have always had an interest in politics, until earlier this year I had never been actively involved in politics or been a member of a political party.

“Like so many people with a busy professional and personal life I was, I suppose, fairly content to let others get on with the business of politics while I got on with my own life.

“However, I have been troubled with the way the political landscape has changed in recent years.

“We live in a time of increasingly polarised politics and public opinion, and the increased prevalence of extreme ideas concerns me.

“On a local level, it has frustrated me to see Taunton slip into decline in so many ways.

“The town and wider region has so many good things going for it but in recent years it has felt as though local political leaders may not have made the most of those good things.”

Mr Perry is full of enthusiasm to get involved, and he chose to stand as a Lib Dem as he felt the group best represented his views.

He added: “Fighting the by election campaign has been hard work but I have enjoyed every minute of it.

“I knocked on hundreds of doors and spoke with countless residents about the issues that matter to them, from localised issues like problem parking through to climate change which is, of course, the issue of our time.

“I was truly overwhelmed by the level of support that was reflected in the result last Thursday but am now itching to get on with the work that I have been elected to do.

“In doing so, I will work for all residents, whether or not I was lucky enough to get their vote.

“There are a number of localised issues that were raised with me in the campaign and I hope to be able to make a difference in relation to those.

“I am also looking forwards to playing a role in ensuring that Taunton town centre is regenerated and re-energised, and that it its place as a county town of which residents can be proud is restored.”

His advice to people considering getting involved in local politics would be to focus on the reasons ‘why’, rather than ‘why not’ - then ‘go for it’.

Mr Perry says the party has been welcoming and supportive as he offered to put his name forward.

Four months ago he was not a member of a party, and now he’s an elected member.

Federica Smith-Roberts, Lib Dem leader of the council said “This is an amazing result.

“It is also a real vote of confidence in everything we have done to start turning the council around since May and will continue to work on.”

The prospective party candidate for the Liberal Democrats, Gideon Amos, said Mr Perry’s win is a sign the party can ‘win the seat’ in any upcoming general elections.

He said: “This amazing victory in a ward which has previously always been Conservative shows the Lib Dems are on the march and really can win this Parliamentary seat.”