Parish Council Elections

THERE will be contests for only three of the 18 Huntingdonshire parish councils in which elections were due to take place on May 1. Voters in Little Paxton, St Ives and Warboys will have the chance to decide who represents them on the parish and town coun

THERE will be contests for only three of the 18 Huntingdonshire parish councils in which elections were due to take place on May 1.

Voters in Little Paxton, St Ives and Warboys will have the chance to decide who represents them on the parish and town councils.

But in 14 of the 15 other parishes there were insufficient nominations for the number of available seats. In those cases, the people nominated, unless they withdraw in the meantime, will be declared successful on Friday May 2, when the results for Huntingdonshire District Council and the contested parishes will also be declared.

In Grafham, there was not a single nomination for a casual vacancy on the parish council. It will be re-advertised in due course.

The no-contest parishes are Brampton, Broughton, Conington (north Hunts), Glatton, Godmanchester Town, Great and Little Gidding, Hemingford Abbots, Hilton, Offord Cluny and Offord D'Arcy (where the parish councils are to be combined), Old Hurst, Pidley-cum-Fenton, Sawtry and Woodhurst.

In South Cambridgeshire, there will be no contest in Cambourne or Little Gransden. Of the 34 parishes due to have elections this year in the district, only five will be contested.

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Both Conservatives and Liberal Democrats blame a change in the law a few years ago for the apparent unwillingness to serve local communities.

But Tory agent Sir Peter Brown was shocked at the extent of the problem, which has concerned him for some time.

"It's worse than previous years. It's just dreadful," he told The Hunts Post. "It started when the rules changed four or five years ago to force parish councillors to make declarations of their interests. A lot of them were just doing it for the good of the community. It put people off standing.

"That's 90 per cent of the problem, but there's some apathy as well," he added.

Liberal Democrat agent Martin Land agreed. "I don't think it's necessarily apathy. It's become a bit of a thankless task," he said. "A councillor these days is almost threatened by having to make declarations of all sorts of things, being reported to the Standards Board and so on. It has become quite an onerous task."

St Ives has become a test bed of whether party politics are appropriate for the lowest tier of local government. Several independent candidates have been nominated to fight the 16 seats on the town council, which is currently controlled by the Conservatives.

At the heart of the bid to oust the Tories is dissatisfaction with the way they handled the future of the town's 19th century Corn Exchange, which came within an ace of being sold off because local engineer Michael Purchase offered a cost-effective way of restoring the building for re-use as a public asset.

The Conservatives say most of the independent candidates are either disaffected former Conservatives or former Labour members and activists.

Former mayor Jason Ablewhite said: "When I joined the town council eight years ago, I had a walkover because the only party that put up a candidate in my ward was the Conservatives.

"I accept that the Corn Exchange has been an issue, but the Conservatives have sat down and listened. At the end of the day the town council worked with Mr Purchas. He would work only with us."

Sir Peter Brown added: "We don't contest parishes in the rural areas, but town councils have a much larger degree of political importance. I'm a firm believer in democracy in local government, and it's important to have the best candidates."

Little Paxton Parish Council candidates (15 seats):

Victor Bartlett, John Blackburn, Sarah Boulton, Jeanette Cleaver, Stan Codling, Sue Dean, Trevor Dean, Alan Denison, Michael Dovey, Chrissy Ellarby, Derek Eyres, June Griffin, Peter Hagger, Martin Hensman, Jean Matheson, Sue Merritt, Tom Merritt, Frank Owens, Sean Radley, Reginald Russell, Patricia Smedley.

St Ives Town Council candidates:

West Ward (four seats): Margaret Ashby (C), Susan Campbell (C), Ian Dobson (I), Dick Forway (C), Kathleen Hewitt (C), David Hodge (LD), Jonathan Salt (I), Colin Saunderson (LD).

East Ward (six seats): Jason Ablewhite (C), Maureen Clarke (C), Douglas Dew (C), Nicholas Dibben (I), Ryan Fuller (I), Phil Green (I), Maria O'Neill (C), Deborah Reynolds (C), John Vickery (C), Angeline Walters (I).

South Ward (six seats): Juned Ahmed (C), Michael Burke (C), Martin Collier (I), Michael Croker (I), John Davies (C), Peter Hewitt (C), Brian Luter (I), David Mead (C), Sarah Mead (I), John Oliver (LD), David O'Neill (C), Rosemary Paget-Crowe (I).

C=Conservative, I=Independent for St Ives, LD=Liberal Democrat.

Warboys Parish Council candidates (15 seats):

Mary Bucknell, Peter Clarke, Joan Cole, Clifford Dragon, David England, Margaret Harlock, Bill Hensley, Pamela Hensley, Terence Huggins, Jon Hunt, Stephen Kessel, Sally Pryke, Russell Smith, Jill Tavener, Robert Wilkinson, Angela Wyatt.