THE iron lady of Castle Point politics has held on to the Tory leadership by just a few votes.

Pam Challis retained her place as Conservative chief by 14 votes to 11 after Bill Sharp went up against her at a Tory association meeting on Wednesday night.

Despite her narrow win, Mrs Challis who has been leader of Castle Point Council for ten years, could now face a back bench backlash.

A disappointed Mr Sharp said the vote sent a clear message for change.

He said: “I am very disappointed for the people of our borough. It has never been that close before and it could have been closer. I don’t think Pam really understood the strength of feeling from back benchers and I hope some good can come of this and she will listen to them.

“I can assure her that a lot of back benchers will be looking very carefully at the forward plans for this borough. But I wish her well for the future and as long as she keeps to Conservative principles she will have my full support.”

It is the second time in recent years that Mrs Challis has faced a back bench rebellion as in September 2011 they refused to support her controversial plans to build 3,500 homes on green belt sites across the borough.

Despite the close call, Mrs Challis has expressed her delight at being reinstated and her plans for the coming years.

She said: “I am very happy to have been re-elected as the leader for the ensuing year and thank colleagues for their support.

“Local Government is facing many challenges ahead and as a council we must do our best to maintain financial stability in order to deliver the services the community require. We are proud of our waste collection service and through a new street cleaning contract are determined to enhance the look of the borough.

“We will also be discussing with our neighbouring councils ways of working together to cut our costs whilst retaining political sovereignty. It is also very important that we promote economic growth through our Business Forum and work hard to attract investment into the Borough which can provide jobs both for adults and young people.”