St Neots: council control could yo-yo after candidate’s sudden death

POLITICAL control of the new St Neots Town Council could change twice in the next six weeks after the death of one of the candidates caused elections for one-third of the seats to be postponed.

Merv Perry, who was 73 and had been a candidate for the seven vacant seats in Eynesbury Ward for the Conservative Party, died suddenly at the weekend after contracting pneumonia.

As a result, elections for the ward have been put back to June 9. But, with the polls for the remaining 14 seats still taking place on May 5, control of the Liberal Democrat-controlled council could – mathematically – pass to the Conservative opposition when the rest of the council votes are counted the following day before it moves back to the Lib-Dems on June 10 (or not, of course).

The council’s annual meeting will go ahead as planned on Monday May 16, when new members for the other wards – who will constitute a legal quorum – are likely to be asked to appoint an interim mayor until the full council makes a definitive decision in June.

But anything can happen in St Neots, where party politics tend to be extremely acrimonious.

This week, Mr Perry’s party colleagues paid tribute to him. Simon Burton, Conservative Party constituency organiser, said: “All concerned with Huntingdon Constituency Conservative Association pass on our sincere condolences to Merv’s wife, Sandy and the whole of his family.

“Merv’s untimely death has come as a shock to us all, and he will be a tremendous loss to the whole community not least due to his work as chairman of the Diabetes UK Huntingdonshire voluntary support group and as a member of the local board of Diabetes Retinopathy.

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“Merv would have made a wonderful town councillor and we were honoured to have him as one of our candidates for May. St Neots has lost a great asset who always put the town first and will be fondly remembered by all who came into contact with him.”

It is the second time in recent years that a council poll in Huntingdonshire has had to be postponed after the death of a candidate.

In June 2009, the contest for the Ramsey division of Cambridgeshire County Council was postponed for six weeks following the sudden death of veteran Liberal Democrat candidate Ray Powell.