Big changes in store at District Council elections

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Stratford District Council

Huge changes are on the cards at Stratford District Council with a large number of sitting councillors bowing out of this May’s local elections.

15 of the district’s 35 current councillors will not be seeking re-election, with a number of long-serving members among those not running.

The elections will take place on Thursday 2nd May.

Former council leader Cllr Chris Saint announced earlier in the year that he would not be contesting his seat, but last week’s nomination papers also show his long-time political opponent Cllr Peter Moorse, leader of the Lib Dem group is also stepping down.

There are other interesting developments with Cllr Molly Giles, who unlike her party colleagues has passionately opposed Stratford’s South Western Relief Road, not standing.

A raft of other members, George Atkinson, Mike Brain, Mike Gittus, Stephen Gray, Maurice Howse, Simon Lawton, Dave Riches, Stephen Thirlwell, Robert Vaudry, Christoper Williams and Hazel Wright, are also stepping down.

Cllr Jackie Harris, who found herself facing allegations of antisemitism last month, will stand as an independent candidate, though perhaps surprisingly, the Conservative Group have opted not to contest her ward of Harbury.

Similarly the Labour Party have not fielded a candidate against Cllr Jason Fojtik, who dramatically broke his ties with the party last week, as reported in the Herald.

Some of the other interesting names to crop up are David Curtis, former artistic director of the Orchestra of the Swan, who is standing for the Lib Dems in Shottery, while Stratford Mayor John Bicknell will stand in Wootton Wawen for the Lib Dems.

Former Stratford mayor and until recently a member of the now disbanded Stratford First Party, Juilet Short, will be running in Avenue.

Labour candidates are standing in 31 wards, the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are each contesting 35 wards while the Green Party have candidates in all 36 wards.

Overall there are four independent candidates standing for election.

Tony Jefferson (Cons) said: “There’s going to be a big turnaround of councillors this year, on the one hand it’s good to have new blood coming in, but you’ll also lose a lot of valuable experience members have built up over the years. I think we have a high quality of candidates at these elections, but should they be elected they will have to hit the ground running because there’s an awful lot of hard work to do.

“It was simply a timing issue that we were not able to field a candidate in Harbury, we could not find a suitable candidate in such a short time frame.”

Peter Moorse, who is stepping down as Lib Dem leader at next month’s election, said: “’The Lib Dems have lots of new and enthusiastic candidates coming forward so it seemed a sensible time to step down after 23 years on the district council.

“A number of other councillors are also standing down so I’m hoping that after the election we’ll be seeing some different faces, bringing new ideas to the council.

“One concern is that the Conservatives are continuing to put forward far
more men than women as candidates. The Lib Dems have almost equal number, but the Conservatives only have 10 women out of 35 candidates. This seems a bit strange in this day and age.

“Reports from the doorstep are that voters are very disillusioned by the
shambles at Westminster and it doesn’t look as though that will change
between now and polling day, especially if voters are faced with a
European election shortly after the council elections.”

John McDermott, secretary of the Stratford Labour Party, said: “The number of candidates we’ve put up is quite consistent with the number we’ve had in previous elections, we’re realistic, we’re not expecting a landslide victory, but we’re very optimistic that we can win six seats.

“This business with Jason Fojtik has not been great, it’s not good when somebody behaves like that, only revealing after the deadline for candidates that he would in fact not be representing the party. However I think his actions will do him more harm than the local Labour Party.”

David Passingham, who is standing for the Green Party in Shipston South, said: “We’ve put up candidates in every ward, partly because it increases publicity for the Green Party and hopefully makes more people aware of climate change and other environmental issues. There are so many people who have concerns about the environment, our challenge is converting that into votes, but we’re hopeful of winning one seat.

“Part of the problem is we don’t use proportional representation, in elections that do, such as the London Assembly elections, we win 8-10per cent of the vote.”

Cllr Peter Barnes (Independent) said: “There are more independent candidates running in these elections then I think there have ever been. It’s good to know people will have a choice other than politics and should we be elected, the chamber could have a distinctly non-political air about it.”

We would like to point out that John Feilding is not standing down at May’s elections as stated in today’s Herald and is standing in Red Horse for the Conservatives.