Hunts goes to the polls Thursday

MUCH of Huntingdonshire goes to the polls tomorrow (Thursday), with around one-third of the seats on the district council being contested.

But the outcome is likely to have far less impact on public policy that the change of leadership in the Conservative group on the council a year ago.

At town council level, where all seats are contested at the same time every four years, the electorate could change the political landscape in St Ives, where the town council has been run by independents who won in a landslide protest four years ago against the incumbent Tories.

In Godmanchester, although several of the candidates are members of political parties, only one is standing on a party ticket – Conservative county councillor Laine Kadic, who is also contesting the ward for the district council, seeking to occupy three seats after Friday’s count in St Neots.

This has raised the question of how appropriate party politics are to parish councils, which include the town councils.

Godmanchester Independent Nigel Pauley, a disaffected Tory who is contesting both the town council and the district, says “people are fed up with the same old faces” on county and district councils. “They don’t want to have double-headed councillors,” he told The Hunts Post – “the same old people topping their pensions up”.

The party politics in local government debate has been going on since the 1950s, and even Sir Peter Brown, who was Sir John Major’s and Jonathan Djanogly’s constituency agent until he retired a couple of years ago, draws the line at party representation on non-town parish councils.

Most Read

“Political activity in the towns is much higher than in other parishes where there’s no party political activity – and quite rightly,” he said. “We need to get away from party politics. But we also need to get away from Vicar of Dibley parish councils.

“It’s like the police commissioner: I don’t think party politics should have any place in that sort of activity. The thought of party hacks putting up for these positions frightens me.”

Liberal Democrat agent Martin Land agrees. “Town councils have large budgets and big projects, but there’s no role for party politics anywhere else. Parishes shouldn’t be party political, and i would like to see more people participating.”

Yet, in the town that has been run by non-affiliated Independents for the past four years, party politics are seen as superfluous.

Nick Dibben, who is seeking re-election to St Ives Town Council tomorrow, told The Hunts Post: “You need to have the right people, but having your head stuffed with party politics is not a requirement. I have a background in building projects, and we call call upon legal backgrounds and other experience, but we have no need for party politics.

“It’s a matter of being able to deal with issues as they arise. I can’t see allotments and park benches as party issues.

“And not being involved in party politics encourages different people to stand in the first place, as well as making it easier to find people in the wider community who are willing to help.”

But something is standing between the vast majority of citizens and their seeking to represent their communities on parish authorities. Of the 14 Huntingdonshire parishes due to have elections this year only three are actually contested: Godmanchester, Pidley-cum-Fenton and St Ives, though there is a by-election in Huntingdon East.

That is something that has worried people who care about local democracy for many years.

“Whether people don’t understand the process of being nominates or it’s just a genuine lack of interest I don’t know,” Sir Peter said.

He is one of seven county councillors seeking election (or re-election) to HDC in tomorrow’s poll. He is standing against respected incumbent Liberal Democrat Mike Shellens in Huntingdon East, a seat also contested by Labour and UKIP.

The proposed westward expansion of St Ives towards Houghton has attracted two candidates from the village to stand against the Tories, though both Heather Merryweather, vice-chairman of Houghton and Wyton Parish Council – opposing current Conservative agent Ryan Fuller in St Ives West – and Paul Boothman, from the Stop Houghton East Development pressure group – opposing former HDC leader Ian Bates – insist they are not single-issue candidates.

In a five-cornered contest in St Ives East, HDC’s executive leader Jason Ablewhite will have Lord Toby Jug among his opponents. The Monster Raving Loony candidate has promised to donate his winnings to an Addenbrooke’s children’s charity if he wins his 5-1bet with bookie William Hill that he will poll more than the 566 votes he received in 2009.

Whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s elections, party control of HDC will not change, even in the unlikely event of the leader being unseated.

Far more change happened in May last year when former leader Ian Bates decided not to stand for executive leader. The new leader, Cllr Ablewhite, sacked most of the Bates cabinet, brought in new, younger blood, and reversed previously planned cuts, such as in contributions to voluntary organisations and reprieving CCTV surveillance in the market towns.

In Eaton Socon, former Liberal Democrat Derek Giles is contesting the seat against the official Lib-Dem, former Mayor of St Neots Gordon Thorpe, a combination that should guarantee Tory Andy Jennings retains the seat.

EVERY vacant seat on Huntingdonshire District Council will be contested on May 3 by Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Labour and the UK Independence Party, except Sawtry, where the Tories are not standing against long-serving Independent Dick Tuplin, and Ramsey where there is no Lib-Dem candidate.

The full list of candidates for HDC seats is:

C=Conservative; Ind=Independent; L=Labour; LD=Liberal Democrat; UKIP= UK Independence Party; *denotes sitting councillor.

Brampton: Adrian Arnett (UKIP), *Peter Downes (LD), Robert Pugh (L), Tina Theodorou (C).

Godmanchester: Ann Beevor (L), Robert Brown (UKIP), Laine Kadi? (C), Nigel Pauley (Ind), David Underwood (LD).

Huntingdon East: Sir Peter Brown (C), Marion Kadewere (L), Derek Norman (UKIP), *Mike Shellens (LD).

Huntingdon North: Peter Ashcroft (UKIP), *Jeff Dutton (C), Patrick Kadewere (L), Trish Shrapnel (LD).

Ramsey: Susan Coomey (L), Brian Cunningham (C), Lisa Duffy (UKIP).

Sawtry: Roger Henson (UKIP), Mary Howell (L), *Dick Tuplin (Ind).

Somersham: *Steve Criswell (C), Tony Jebson (LD), Shirley Reeve (UKIP), Graeme Watkins (L).

St Ives East: *Jason Ablewhite (C), Paul Bullen (UKIP), Lord Toby Jug (Loony), Richard Oliver (LD), Angela Richards (L).

St Ives West: Richard Allen (L), Ryan Fuller (C), David Hodge (LD), Margaret King (UKIP), Heather Merryweather (Ind).

St Neots Eaton Ford: Marion Appleton (UKIP), Nicholas Berry (LD), *Bob Farrer (C), Nik Johnson (L).

St Neots Eaton Socon: Derek Giles (Ind), *Andy Jennings (C), Patricia Nicholls (L), Jenny O’Dell (UKIP), Gordon Thorpe (LD).

St Neots Eynesbury: *Andrew Hansard (C), David Howard (UKIP), Bill O’Connor (L), Doug Terry (LD).

The Hemingfords: *Ian Bates (C), Paul Boothman (Ind), Ian Percy (UKIP), David Priestman (LD), John Watson (L).

Warboys and Bury: Tony Hulme (LD), John Pethard (C), Iain Ramsbottom (L), Michael Tew (UKIP).

Yaxley and Farcet: Margaret Cochrane (L), Barry Hyland (UKIP), Mark Oliver (C), Chris Waites (LD).

The full list of candidates for the parish council is:

St Ives (West): Michael Burke (C), Ian Dobson (Ind), Kathleen Hewitt (C), David Hodge (LD), Margaret King (UKIP), Deborah Reynolds (C), and Debbie Townsend (Ind).

St Ives (East): Jason Ablewhite (C), Angie Ayers-Wilson (Ind), Diane Birnie (UKIP), Paul Bullen (UKIP), Maureen Clarke (C), Jennifer Coville (Ind), Nick Dibben (Ind), Tim Drye (Ind), Pamela Edey (Ind), Ryan Fuller (C), Christopher Hayton (C), Nigel Hookham (C), Antony Innes (C), Phil Pope (Ind), and Heather Ward (C).

St Ives (South): Susan Campbell (C), Ziaur Choudhrey (C), Martin Collier (Ind), John Davies (C), Ian Jackson (Ind) Lord Tody Jug (Loony), Brian Luter (Ind), Rahman Mokshud (C), Deborah Richardson (Ind), Jonathan Salt (Ind), and Matthew Smith (Ind).

Huntingdon (East): James Farmer (C), Robert Pugh (L), and Kevin Sumner (LD).

Godmanchester: Richard Butcher, Malcolm Cohen, Louise Copper, Roger Coxhead, Michael Godley, Laine Kadic (C), Roger Leivers, Jennie Macleod, Peter Morgan, Nigel Pauley, Nicholas Russel, David Taylor, David Underwood, Christopher Vane, Nicholas Wells, Alan Welton, Graham Wilson, Sarah Wilson, and Susan Worthington.

Pidley-cum-Fenton: John Armstrong, Sarah Austin, Daniel Brown, Rebecca Harper, David Hopkins, Bob Johnson, Michael Newman, and Paul Wilderspin.