Lib Dems' tactical withdrawal clears way for bid to oust HDC leader

THE Liberal Democrats have pulled out of contesting The Hemingfords Ward in next month s district council elections in a tactical move to give bereaved mother Maxine Hay a clear crack at council leader Ian Bates. Mrs Hay, from Alconbury, lost her 16-year-

THE Liberal Democrats have pulled out of contesting The Hemingfords Ward in next month's district council elections in a tactical move to give bereaved mother Maxine Hay a clear crack at council leader Ian Bates.

Mrs Hay, from Alconbury, lost her 16-year-old football-mad son Warren a year ago when he was hit by a car crossing the A141 Huntingdon northern bypass on his way to the Jubilee Park playing fields.

After Cllr Bates stopped speaking to her following the arrival at HDC headquarters of a legal claim from her solicitors, she decided to stand against him - even though HDC is contributing £50,000 towards the cost of a light-controlled crossing at the A141 junction with Kings Ripton Road, for which she has been campaigning for nearly a year.

The Hemingfords election was due to have been a four-cornered contest, with Labour fielding Jacqueline Gilbert, until the Lib Dem candidate, Richard Oliver, decided to withdraw yesterday (Tuesday).


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Mr Oliver said: "Back in 1993, when giving planning permission for the then new road, our district council explicitly excluded the requirement for safe pedestrian access; this was against the advice of the highway authority. The coroner was scathing about the action of, among others, the district council.

"Having been forced to live through every mother's worst nightmare, Maxine has been fighting an energetic campaign for pedestrian safety measures to prevent another accident at the same spot. She and the Warren Hay Action Group collected over 17,000 signatures on their petition and have been fundraising for the cost of the crossing. They have gathered wide-ranging support from local and national bodies," he added.

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"Immediately after the coroner's verdict I would have expected the relevant authorities to announce that the money would be found and the scheme could start. Surprisingly that did not happen.

"The cost of pedestrian-controlled lights is estimated at £360,000. Last year, our district council had an unexpected surplus of £2million. They rejected a Lib Dem proposal to contribute £150,000. They have only recently offered just £50,000. This is shabby.

"Worse, the delay has left at risk the lives of other youngsters who are going to these well-used football pitches.

"Having spoken with Maxine, I admire her determination to get this crossing installed. She also wants to get a change in the law. This would impose a duty of care on authorities with such facilities to ensure that there is a safe method of access.

"And I know that she feels incensed at the off-hand way she has been treated by HDC. That is why she is standing against Ian Bates. She wants to send a clear message that the council must listen to the people. Any future incidents should be dealt with in a more sympathetic, rapid and positive manner.

"In these circumstances I have decided to withdraw my nomination."

The Liberal Democrats said they would not actively campaign for Mrs Hay in the run-up to the May 1 poll.

Maxine Hay told The Hunts Post: "I'm grateful that maybe there might be a few more people voting for me. But I have no allegiance to any party. I'm there to do what's right. I'm standing to make a point to the council and Ian Bates."

Cllr Bates said today: "I've only just heard the news but, if people want to withdraw, that's their democratic right.

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