It’s just over four weeks until our City Council by-election here in Queen Edith’s, on Thursday 13th November, and there are a few pieces of news to round up. Firstly, the nomination period for candidates has closed, and we now know there will be four candidates standing, representing the same four parties as most of the recent elections here. There are no independent and no UKIP candidates. Here’s the official list, to be published on Monday:
I have already requested information from the candidates, and will be publishing a full guide next week.
The Saga Of The Previous Councillor
This by-election has been necessitated by the resignation of Sue Birtles, the Labour councillor who we elected in May 2012. Sue’s resignation was not accompanied by any official explanation, just a statement in the local Labour party newsletter that the announcement “followed her selection as Labour’s parliamentary candidate for South Cambridgeshire in the general election”. The same wording also found its way into the Cambridge News.
However, Sue became the parliamentary candidate back in April, and was certainly not considering resigning as recently as late June, when she was elected chair of the South Area Committee. So at the committee meeting this wek, I asked in public for an explanation, which I think we are due, given that recent by-elections have cost as much as ?8,500 of public money. Labour councillors briefly conferred, and said that the resignation was “for personal reasons”, a completely acceptable – but somewhat different – explanation.
Yesterday we found out that Sue was no longer the parliamentary candidate either! Again, there was no official announcement – the news slipped out through a Twitter conversation:
This seems a strange way of the news being made public, but the city Labour party (which covers Sue’s council position) hasn’t been updating its website even monthly, and in South Cambridgeshire I don’t believe the Labour party has a website at all. So we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised. I like Sue, and think she has been a good councillor for Queen Edith’s, so she deserves better than the way this has been handled.
What To Ask The Candidates
There are four weekends until the by-election, and I expect there’ll be a lot of doorstep campaigning during that time. If you get a visit from a prospective candidate, what issues should you be raising with them? It’s important to note that in this area, responsibilities are split between different councils (city and county), so although city councillors may be able to progress issues about, say, parking, it’s not their direct responsibility, and there’s no point in asking candidates “how they’d vote” on many subjects. These then are the responsibilities of the city council, and if you have strong views on any of them, you should be asking visiting candidates for their opinions.
– Leisure and entertainment
– Rubbish and recycling collections
– Planning and building control
– Council Tax collection
– Environmental health services
I expect the local “Save The Green Belt” campaign to question the candidates hard on their views, and in particular their parties’ track record.