Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Knowle relocation project: and the District Council elections

Whilst the majority party continues as such at the District Council
Conservatives retain control of EDDC - Election - Midweek Herald
2015 District Council elections results - East Devon

... the number of independent Councillors has risen following the elections:

Election 2015: East Devon sees the rise of a new political force

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: May 09, 2015

A small and very English revolution has taken place in the East Devon District elections this week. The East Devon Independent Alliance (IEDA) won 10 of the 59 wards and emerged as the largest opposition group to the Conservative controlled council.

Buoyed up by the strong performance of the Independent parliamentary candidate Claire Wright the loose alliance of independents replaced the Liberal Democrats as the Conservatives’ main opponents. With another six independents outside of the alliance winning along with six Lib Dems who survived the national swing against them and no Labour councillors it means there is a similar make-up to the last council excepting the opposition’s construction. The Conservatives have slipped from 40 councillors to 37, the Lib Dems are down from nine to six, while the independents go from seven to six – with the new the Independent East Devon Alliance emerging from nothing.

Their leader Ben Ingham won Woodbury and Lympstone with a large majority saying the group were fed up with the party politics of the Conservatives and Lib Dems and wanted to put East Devon first. Their main concerns were the failure of the local plan to be put into action to control planning along with the decision by the council to up sticks and move to Exmouth leaving the Knowle empty. Mr Ingham believes the cost savings involved are not what the Conservatives say they are and feels the plan is simply wrong.

Despite the minor earthquake in the structure of the opposition the Conservatives enjoyed another electoral success retaining control of the council and seeing several notable wins.

The Tory “Budleigh Boys” are back in the seaside town with a clean sweep of Budleigh Salterton. Clearly delighted Alan Dent, Steve Hall and Tom Wright were well ahead of the Green Party and the IEDA candidates.

There were cheers for the Conservative couple who battled it out in Exmouth Brixington against each other. Maddy Chapman just pipped her husband David Chapman in terms of the number of votes was elected along with David and also another Tory candidate Cherry Nicholas.

Conservative stalwart Jill Elson topped the poll in Exmouth Halsdon paying tribute to her sister for her hard work for the party. Pauline Stott for the Tories was also elected in the same ward along with Megan Armstrong for the IEDA squeezing out Emma Gibbons in the fight for a third council place.

Ben Jones for the Green Party, 20, is one of the youngest candidates to have stood in the election, but he lost out in Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh to Brian Bailey of the Conservatives and Steve Gazzard and Brenda Taylor of the Lib Dems, although Ben polled 804 votes and has become a parish councillor in Woodbury.

The Lib Dems did slip back in numbers but there were notable successes including the re-election of Douglas Hull in Axminster who has now clocked up 51 years as a councillor and is now Father of the House.

There were repeated plaudits from the candidates both victorious and those who lost out for the work of the returning officers and those who manned the polling stations and counted the votes.

But perhaps the story of the election was of Tory continuity and the rise of the IEDA and what impact this quiet revolution in the opposition to the Conservatives may have.

The final tally was:

Conservatives 37

Independent East Devon Alliance 10

Liberal Dmocrats 6

Independents 6

Election 2015: East Devon sees the rise of a new political force | Exeter Express and Echo

This was counter to the country-wide surge in the number of Conservative Councillors:
Conservatives make gains in English council polls - BBC News
Local elections: Tories celebrate again after big gains and UKIP gets first council | UK | News | Daily Express
Tories make large gains in council contests after general election win | Society | The Guardian

One suggestion for why East Devon bucked the trend came from the only Conservative Councillor to retain his seat in Sidmouth:

SIDMOUTH: Council move to blame for Conservative defeats at district election, says Hughes

12th May 2015 by Anders Larsson anders@tindlenews.co.uk

Conservative councillor Stuart Hughes said East Devon District Council’s handling of the Knowle site situation played a major role in the outcome of the election.

Councillor Hughes, the only surviving Conservative after the party lost six of seven seats across the three Sidmouth wards, said the relocation project should have been handled “far more transparently”.

Speaking on the podium straight after it had been confirmed that he will be joined in Sidmouth/Sidford Ward by Independent East Devon Alliance councillors Dawn Manley and Marianne Rixson, he said: “The Conservative team is what I cast as a very strong team for Sidmouth/Sidford.

“Unfortunately I’ve got to be here by myself. For Ian [Mckenzie-Edwards] and Graham Troman, I’m sure they will live to fight another day. For the people of Sidmouth, they had their say and they had their say in Sid Valley - and you’ve got to respect what the people say. I’ve always done that ever since I was elected. I’ve always been somebody who stood up and listened, and I will continue to do so and give them 100 per cent of my time.

“There were a couple of issues here, the main one was how this whole issue of the Knowle was handled. And I think it should have been handled far more transparently than what it was, and I’m looking forward to representing those people for the next four years and working with the Conservative majority here on EDDC.”

The comments come in the week that the council’s conduct was strongly criticised by judge Brian Kennedy QC, who ruled against EDDC after they appealed against a freedom of information request order.

Following Thursday’s district council elections, Sidmouth Town Ward saw a clean sweep by Independent candidates.

Independent East Devon Alliance councillors Matthew Booth and Cathy Gardner plus independent John Dyson took the three seats ahead of Conservative candidates Sheila Kerridge, Frances Newth and Peter Sullivan. Councillor Booth praised the efforts of the EDA team as a whole, and added: “Thank you to everyone who voted for me, and I’ll do all I can to represent them as best I can.”

Speaking before the count for Sidmouth/Sidford Ward was concluded, Councillor Dyson said: “Four elected councilors for Sidmouth are independents in place of Conservatives. Perhaps that sends a message to the district council what Sidmouth thinks about it.”

Conservative Peter Sullivan’s message was: “Although we won’t be here in the near future, we have not gone away.”

The one seat for Sidmouth Rural was taken by independent David Barratt in a two-horse race with long-serving Conservative Christine Drew. Councillor Barratt admitted he was “surprised” and praised Christine Drew for her work during the 14 years she had served on the council. Christine thanked her supporters, fellow councilors and EDDC’s Democratic Services Department for help and support given over the 14 years, and she wished Councillor Barratt well, and concluded “I’ve enjoyed every minute I’ve been here.”

CAPTION: Stuart Hughes (left) is the only remaining Conservative serving the Sidmouth/Sidford ward. He is pictured with fellow candidates Ian Mckenzie-Edwards (Con), Marianne Rixson, Dawn Manley (both Independent East Devon Alliance), Lewis Ragbourn (Lib Dem) and Jack Brokenshire (Independent). Marianne Rixson and Dawn Manley won the other two seats

SIDMOUTH: Council move to blame for Conservative defeats at district election, says Hughes - View from Sidmouth

See also:
EDDC: Independents oust Tories in Sidmouth Town - Election - Midweek Herald

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