RATHER against the rub of the green, there were a couple of surprises in last week s elections for one third of the seats on Huntingdonshire District Council. The biggest surprise was the turnout – not nearly as bad as canvassers had predicted from the ap
RATHER against the rub of the green, there were a couple of surprises in last week's elections for one third of the seats on Huntingdonshire District Council.
The biggest surprise was the turnout - not nearly as bad as canvassers had predicted from the apathy they found on the doorstep.
And, given that nothing really turned on the outcome of the elections - there was no chance of shaking Conservative control of the council - getting more than a third of the electorate (33.7 per cent) to vote was quite an achievement.
In the end, the result was even-stevens. The Tories gained (technically) three seats, two of them from the Liberal Democrats, and the Lib Dems took two from the Conservatives.
The third Conservative gain was in Gransden & the Offords, where Alec Stenner had been sitting as an Independent since resigning the Conservative whip a year ago when he was not selected to contest the county council elections for the Tories. So, with Mr Stenner not standing, it was really a Tory hold.
All the HDC cabinet members whose seats were contested - Councillors Terry Rogers, Nick Guyatt and Deborah Reynolds - retained their seats comfortably, as did vice-chairman Peter Bucknell in Warboys and Bury.
In Ramsey, veteran Lib Dem Ray Powell fought off a Tory challenge by more than doubling his majority - to just 16 votes - in a straight fight where fewer than one voter in three turned out for the occasion, in spite of the longer polling hours.
Best turnouts were in Buckden and Alconbury & The Stukeleys, where more than 51 per cent of the electorate went to the polling station.
The Tories easily held Alconbury, though with a new candidate after Sarah Vanbergen decided to take a rest from council duties. They also took Buckden from the Lib Dems after Terry Clough stood down for a similar reason - and in spite of the Lib Dems putting up a strong candidate in former councillor and transport spokesman, Mark Rainer.
The other Conservative gain was in Eynesbury, where Ian Pele Taylor was beaten convincingly by Andrew Gilbert. The Lib Dems may have fallen victim to a very poor turnout of fewer than 30 per cent of the electorate.
However, there was consolation for the party in Huntingdon East (vacated by former HDC leader Derek Holley, who has retired from local politics) and St Neots Priory Park, which has been without full representation since last autumn when former member Nick Finnie emigrated to Australia.
The Lib Dems will, however, have been disappointed by their showing in Sawtry, where another former HDC councillor, John Souter, came a poor third to Independent John Garner, a former head of the village's primary school.
So the political composition of the new council is exactly the same as after the last election two years ago when all the seats were contested - 40 Conservatives, 10 Liberal Democrats and two Independent members.
Tory leader Councillor Ian Bates said the result had been an endorsement by the electorate of HDC's policy of delivering services from a low tax base.
He particularly welcomed the success of the two youngest Tory candidates, Richard Bailey, in Buckden, and Andrew Gilbert, in Eynesbury. "It's good to have young people contributing to the community," he said.
But he was disappointed not to have taken Ramsey, where the other two councillors are both Conservatives and where the previous Lib Dem majority was just seven votes.
Liberal Democrat leader, Councillor Peter Downes, was thrilled that the party had won its first seat in Huntingdon. "Overall, there was a 1.4 per cent swing from the Conservstives.