Candidates gear up for elections

THE Conservative s youngest hopeful in St Neots – 22-year-old Simon Burton, from Eaton Ford – will be contesting Eaton Socon for St Neots Town Council. A former Longsands pupil and now a technical assistant with Hertfordshire County Council, he is also st

THE Conservative's youngest hopeful in St Neots - 22-year-old Simon Burton, from Eaton Ford - will be contesting Eaton Socon for St Neots Town Council.

A former Longsands pupil and now a technical assistant with Hertfordshire County Council, he is also studying part time for an MA in politics at the University of Hull.

His political experience includes involvement in MP Jonathan Djanogly's successful 2005 General Election campaign.

Standing under a bronze bust of former Prime Minister and Huntingdon MP Sir John Major at the party's Huntingdon headquarters, he told The Hunts Post: "I believe the seat is winnable - but with hard work."

Most St Neots wards in Huntingdonshire District Council are three-cornered contests between Conservative, Lib Dem and Labour, but the British National Party is also standing in Eynesbury, where the Tory candidate is town mayor Paul Ursell, a former district councillor. Lib Dem Diana Collins is confident of seeing off that challenge, particularly if the BNP damages the Conservative vote.

There is a county council by-election in Little Paxton, following the resignation of Sharon Lee because of ill-health. The Lib Dems hope to take the seat through district councillor Bob Eaton. The Tories are also fielding a new district member, Ken Churchill, and veteran Labour contender Richard Allen fights his party's corner.

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Elsewhere, some familiar faces will be missing from Huntingdonshire District Council chamber after the local government elections on May 3.

In Huntingdon, where Green Party candidates have put up in all three contested wards, the vote is difficult to predict. High-profile departures include the Tories' Nick Guyatt and Jean Chandler.

Nick Guyatt resigned last month ahead of a move to Luxembourg, where his wife is a senior manager with one of the world's largest asset management companies.

Jean Chandler, a former St Ives councillor who has represented Fenstanton since 2004, decided to step down at the age of 75 after 25 years as a member of HDC.

Lib Dem Shirley Menczer, 60, has decided not to seek re-election after five years on the authority representing Brampton.

Patricia Jordan will hope to hold that seat against former parish council chairman Jane King (Tory) and Labour's Sybil Tuckwood.

In Nick Guyatt's former ward, Elton and Folksworth, there will be a straight fight between Labour's Mary Howell and county council leadership contender, Conservative Mac McGuire, from Sawtry, who also chairs the county's fire authority.

All candidates for Fenstanton live in St Ives. The Lib Dems lost the seat in 2004, and their hopeful Colin Saunderson will be anxious to win it back against Conservative Paul Dakers and Labour's Angela Richards.

Somersham sees farmer Mike Newman trying to set a record - if he is re-elected, he will have served as a councillor for 50 consecutive years by the end of his four-year term. He is the only member of HDC to have served continuously since the council's creation in 1974, and was previously a member of the rural district council.

The UK Independence Party is the wild card in Upwood and the Raveleys in a fight with sitting Conservative member Terry Bell, who also faces the Lib Dems.

Whatever happens, the Conservative Party cannot lose control of HDC in these elections. It already holds 40 of the 52 seats and 19 are contested on May 3. Even if the Tories lost all those they now have they would still control the authority.

The Conservatives will campaign on their record - they have controlled HDC since its creation in 1974. They point to one of the lowest district Council Tax precepts in the country - £109 a year for Band D, compared with the district council average of £150 - even if it would have been higher if they had had their way before the Government capped it two years ago. They also claim one of the best recycling levels in the country, a vibrant economy and good local services.

The Liberal Democrat opposition acknowledges it has no prospect of wresting control from the Tories. It criticises the scale of the plans for replacing HDC's Pathfinder House headquarters and complains that the council has been too slow in embracing environmental initiatives. It is also pressing for greater public access to the democratic process and for HDC to share administrative resources with neighbouring councils.

Labour will be pressing for more affordable and "green" housing and will campaign on transport issues. They will point to the imminent arrival of the Huntingdon-Cambridge guided bus service, largely funded by central Government and due to begin running early in 2009, and on local trunk road improvements, such as the A428 dualling.

There are parish council elections on May 3 in Abbotsley, Catworth, Earith, Ellington, Grafham, Great Gransden, Huntingdon, Spaldwick, St Neots, Stilton and Stow Longa. Parish elections were also scheduled for Abbots Ripton, Barham & Woolley, Bluntisham, Brington & Molesworth, Buckworth, Bythorn & Keyston, Colne, Easton, Eynesbury Hardwicke, Fenstanton, Great Staughton, Hail Weston, Holme, Holywell-cum-Needingworth, Kimbolton & Stonely, Kings Ripton, Leighton, Little Paxton, Old Weston, Perry, Ramsey, Somersham, St Neots Rural, Tilbrook, Upwood & the Raveleys, Waresley, Woodwalton and Yaxley, but there were not enough candidates for a contest.

In South Cambridgeshire, election to the district council will include the wards of Bourn and Papworth & Elsworth, which includes Conington and Fen Drayton. There will be a casual election for three seats on Cambourne Parish Council, with no contest taking place in Elsworth, Fen Drayton and Papworth Everard, where all nominees will be elected by default.

Huntingdon Town Council will inevitably have a new look after the poll.

Many existing Tory councillors, as well as the mayor, Councillor Jeff Dutton, who lost the Conservative whip earlier this year, are not seeking re-election. St Neots Town Council election will be a straight fight between Liberal Democrats and Tories, with no other party represented. Both hope to gain control of an authority that has no majority party.