Sunday, May 6, 2012

Independents Day!

The 2012 local elections are over. Nationally, the coalition took a drubbing and Labour are claiming victory. What about the results in Huntingdonshire and St Neots? The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats did take a drubbing. But not everywhere. Labour won 1 seat. But also lost vote. UKIP also gained a seat but didn't do as well as their pre-election hype. It was the Independents that caused problems for the Conservatives and made one gain.

In looking at the results I have 2 datasets. The first is a comparison with the seats up for election and those same seats back in 2008. The next set is comparison where the same seats were fought in 2011 and 2012.

2008 v 2012

2011v 2012

In 2009 there was a County Council Election and in 2010 the District Election were combined with the General Election. So neither of these results have been included.

The gaining of Huntingdon North was to happen. If Labour were to make a breakthrough it had to be here. Whilst a win is a win, Labour should be disappointed this wasn't a better win. A majority of 97 when all your resources should have been targeted at this seat is pretty pathetic. The Labour vote dropped away everywhere else against their 2011 results. In 2011 Labour got a boost and they have failed to capitalise on this. In terms of vote Labour was last.

The gain in Eaton Socon is a fantastic success with Derek Giles winning by miles against the Conservatives. Just goes to show what a properly run campaign can achieve with plenty of leaflets and door knocking. The Independents for St Ives retained the Town Council against a Conservative onslaught. Independents in Godmanchester and The Hemingfords also gave the Conservative winners a run for their money.

In the end it is time, energy and commitment that needs to be put into a campaign. I didn't think Derek Giles would win because I thought the Conservative vote was more solid. In the end it was very soft.

Liberal Democrats
They were defending 3 seats. In the end they held two and lost one. `It is very obvious the Liberal Democrats had a strategy of defending Huntingdon East and Brampton. Where they fought they stemmed their losses to retain their seats. In the rest of the seats they just put up paper candidates and lost badly. In St Neots they lost by miles destroying what had been built up for years. In Eaton Socon Gordon Thorpe got just 53 votes.

In terms of seats the Liberal Democrats are still the main opposition party. In terms of votes, the Liberal Democrats have fallen from a solid second to third place behind UKIP.

They put up candidates in all 15 seats up for election. In terms of votes they came second with 4604. They gained the last seat in Ramsey which was expected. Elsewhere there was no real election strategy to win other seats. If there was a strategy it utterly failed. In Warboys and Bury, UKIP had a chance but failed to capitalise on this chance. If I was UKIP I would be happy about the vote but disappointed other seats weren't properly targeted.

The Conservatives had a torrid time. They expectedly lost in Ramsey and Huntingdon North. They unexpectedly lost in Eaton Socon and gained Warboys and Bury which the Liberal Democrats gave up on.

Looking at the results the Conservatives were targeting Huntingdon North and St Ives leaving the rest to get on with it. Not contesting Sawtry because the independent "was a tory" is a pathetic excuse. The reason they didn't stand was local opposition to the Sex Shop which the Conservatives passed.

So why did the Conservatives do so badly? The "National situation" will be the main excuse. Yet where the Conservatives did properly campaign their vote did stand up. Where the Conservatives just did the minimum is where they lost and lost badly. Against the 2011 results the Conservatives lost 47% of their vote. A dramatic loss that has much to do with how badly the Conservatives are communicating with the electorate than any "national situation".

The Conservatives put much time and effort into St Ives. The Council Leader, Jason Ablewhite, and the Deputy Chairman Political - Ryan Fuller were leading a charge to take control of St Ives Town Council. This failed. Not only did they have many leaflets and their own website they charged after the Independents to the detriment of other campaigns. If all the Conservative campaigns had similar resources and communication between the Conservatives and the electorate their losses would be been stemmed.

Nor did the Conservatives have much to say. Their literature was lacklustre. In this age of austerity the District Council has gone on a spending spree and raised Council Tax. In raising Council Tax they broke a promise. A spend, spend, spend strategy which didn't go down well with Conservative voters.

The loss of Andy Jennings to an Independent campaign by Derek Giles is a great set back for the Conservatives. This shows the Conservative vote is soft when against Independents and cannot compete against a properly organised independent campaign. The Conservatives need to take stock of where they want to go forward. My advice is simple. Cut council tax and get back to communicating with the electorate all the year round rather than only at election time.

The Conservatives have 2 years to turn this around or 2014 could be much worse. The County Council elections in 2013 could be another torrid time for the Conservatives. But not from Labour or the Liberal Democrats but from properly organised Independents. Derek Giles and others have shown Independents can win if properly organised.

A win is a win and the Conservatives won on a much reduced share of the vote. The opposition vote spread across many parties and Independents. The Liberal Democrats just don't have the resources to be the main opposition party nor does UKIP. Much will be made about the national situation yet where the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats properly campaigned they didn't lose much vote. It was where minimal or non-existent campaigns took place was where the main two parties lost vote.

It was the Independents that took the fight to the Conservatives causing problems in most of the wards they stood in. The Conservative assault on the Independents for St Ives failed badly. It was the Independents election. Independents day.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

And another report into St Neots Town Centre

Another report into St Neots Town Centre? According to the Hunts Post, the Town Council and the District Council are applying for part of the Mary Portas £ million. The problem I have with all this is what is wrong has been looked at and examined. What is needed is larger retail units and more car parking.

It has long been recognised that St Neots needs larger retail units as the current size of the units are unattractive to major retailers. The Civic Report points to a few locations which aren't easy to achieve. What is needed is the District Council to decide that it is willing to use compulsory purchase powers to assemble the land for any development. That is a hard.

The easy way is to redevelop The Priory Centre. Not that this will bring in any new larger retail units. The councils have to be seen to do something. Redeveloping The Priory Centre is doing something. But redeveloping The Priory Centre will do nothing for the Town Centre itself. It is just easy as the Council are the owners of this area.

The focus of any report on the future of the Town Centre must be on providing larger retail units on the High Street and/or Market Square. Anything less will mean another lost opportunity.


Various Reports on St Neots Town Centre.
Civic Report 2004
Perceptions Report 2007
Priory Waterfront 2008
Town Centre Benchmarking 2010

Friday, May 4, 2012

Undemocratic Liberal Democrats

The Annual Town Meeting is where the electors of St Neots can stand up and ask questions of the Town Council. It is an important part of the Town civic agenda, but it has been relegated to happening before the Annual Council Meeting. Other Town and Parishes hold separate Annual Meetings. Not here in St Neots.

So I wasn't surprised on at the Council Meeting on 14th April 2011 to find the Liberal Democrats carried on with this squeezing of the Annual Town Meeting before the Annual Council Meeting.

Seeing the Annual Town Meeting can be held from 1st March to 31st May inclusive this is rather late in the day to sort out a date. As ever, rather than holding a separate meeting the Town Council decided to hold them together. The result was a meeting dominated by Gordon Thorpe and questions were secondary.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How I voted in 2012

This is how I voted at the local elections on 3rd May 2012:

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Town Council sends Police after electors!

In a letter to the Hunts Post, John Bowskill says the following:
"On the evening of April 14, I received a visit from Pc Aaron Murphy, who had been sent by his Inspector, Mark Greenhalgh, following a complaint lodged by Cllr Harrison with the police against me, John Bowskill, for allegedly being aggressive at the meeting on March 29."

John goes on to describe this visit:
"Pc Murphy did not know what the aggressive incident had been until I explained it to him, and he did not see it as being very aggressive."

Of course not.

"Cllr Harrison has told the police that if I am aggressive again at any future meeting, I would be asked to leave."

Cllr Harrison, as Chairman of the Committee, has the power, as indeed any Chairman has, of excluding an person or persons from a meeting they are chairing.

Sending the police round to scare a few electors will have the opposite effect. As it has done.

John write further:
"At the end of the meeting, one of our action group, Sandy Tuke, approached Cllr Harrison and a group of councillors and politely said: “We are not unreasonable people.” His immediate reply was that: “You have been aggressive throughout all the meetings and you are anti-childnow just get out so that we can carry on with our meeting.”

Whether they have been aggressive is a point of view. Informing them to get out of the meeting is wrong. These are meetings which are open to the public, which is something Mrs Thatcher fought for. I thought local councils were supposed to be close to the people rather than excluding them!

At this point I thought I would look up the minutes of this meeting. I read through the draft minutes and there is no indication that these events took place. If the public are being aggressive and the Chairman gave warnings these should have been minuted. They weren't!

I also found something interesting! The draft minutes state the following:

"Residents living in the area around Balmoral Way were in attendance. The Chairman said that the Committee had agreed to hear from one resident supporting the play area and one resident against the proposal.
Mrs Tuke of Balmoral Way spoke against the proposal and Mrs L Ruck of Barnard Close spoke for the scheme."

I find it strange that Mrs Ruck spoke for the scheme. If Mrs L Ruck is a Town Councillor or related to either or both Town Councillors listed at Barnard Close this should have been declared and minuted.
Otherwise this gives the impression that Mrs L Ruck is an ordinary citizen with no connection to this scheme or the Conservatives!

But there seems to be a misunderstanding by John and his fellow protesters:

"I sent an e-mail to Mr Reilly, asking for Cllr Harrison to be dismissed from the town council for his behaviour."

Cllr Harrison has been elected by the people of the ward of Eaton Socon as one of their representatives on the Town Council. The only people who can sack him are the electors of Eaton Socon at the next Town Council elections in 3 years time. Ed Reilly is the Acting Town Clerk and is an employee of the Town Council. It is the Town Councillors that are in charge and it is, we the people, who elect these Town Councillors.

John Bowskill and Owen Murrell carried out an opinion poll to find out what the people facing on to the proposed play area thought. This was heavily against this proposal. There is a conflict with the Conservative pledge to put a play area in Eynesbury in the original spot.

The Conservatives have an election pledge to carry through. This is what the people voted for. The problem is the people living next to the proposed play area don't want it there. This has been the problem with putting in a play area. Virtually everyone wants one but so long as it is not near them.

In the end the Town Council is there for us, the people. Those we put in charge have to make difficult decisions which some may not like and will be against whatever the final decision. That is Government. We elect these people as representatives to the various Councils. 

If the Town Council decided to put a play area on a plot of land near my house I could be against this. I could be very against this and I understand the feelings of residents who oppose these proposals. Obviously Cllr Harrison doesn't seem to understand these points of views. Going as far as labelling residents as: "Anti-child". That is wrong. These residents aren't "Anti-child" they are anti a play area being put where none has been before!

What is also wrong is sending the Police round to have a word. If no law has been broken nor anyone hasn't been excluded from the meeting then this is simply Over The Top and is intimidation of residents who quite rightly aren't intimidated.

Is this is what is going to happen to opponents of this Conservative run Town Council? They are going to have the Police sent round to see them! I hope not.

Conservatives who broke the Council Tax freeze promise part 2

Which Conservatives broke their parties 2010 election promise to freeze Council Tax for 2 years. 
Even though the Conservatives didn't win, their promise morphed into the Coalition Agreement.
Liberal Democrat run Councils followed the agreement. The Conservatives in Cambridgeshire have broken this promise. The Fire Authority has 17 members which are appointed by the County Council and Peterborough Council. Below is how they voted. It should be noted the Liberal Democrats wanted a higher rate of Council Tax than was passed.