Fenland District Council candidates take to the streets as election battle hots up

WITH next month’s local elections set to be the most exciting in decades many candidates took to Fenland’s streets on Saturday to urge for your votes.

With 38 vacancies on Fenland District Council up for grabs every vote will be vital in what is set to be a highly competitive and politically charged battle.

With time running out to secure extra support ahead of the elections on May 5 many candidates soaked up the glorious sunshine while taking the chance to press home their campaign message.

Rob Skoulding, standing as an Independent candidate for March West, is enjoying his first experience of campaigning after deciding to stand as a local councillor.

He said: “Many members of my family have been helping me campaign including my wife Laura, my children Jay, Harry and Chloe and my father-in-law Steve.

“We’ve been putting leaflets through people’s doors and I’ve been walking around the ward talking to people. I’m going to drop some more leaflets through doors next week to remind people to make sure they vote.

“If I’ve seen people in their gardens I’ve stopped and discussed local government with them. I’ve just explained to people that I’m standing as an Independent because I want to do my best for the community and because I don’t think there should be any political parties involved in local government.”

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Mr Skoulding - son of late Councillor Peter Skoulding MBE - is standing against Christopher Carter (Labour), Stephen Court (Liberal Democrats), Matt Broadfield (Independent), and Conservatives’ Adam Triggs, Jan French and Kit Owen.

Mr Skoulding said: “Most of the people know that I’m standing and have been interested in the elections which is pleasing. It’s been nice that a lot of have said they’ll vote for me but I know not everyone will. To be fair I don’t expect much more than a 30 per cent turn out.

“A lot of people have asked me how much do councillors actually earn which has thrown me a bit as I don’t know the answer.

“I’ve just explained that I won’t be seeking expenses if I get elected to Fenland District Council.”

Nearly 100 candidates have lined up for the 38 vacancies on the council - although two wards have seen candidates returned unopposed. Former deputy leader Pop Jolley will be returning to Fenland District Council after being unopposed in the Wimblington seat currently held by Jill Tuck, who is stepping down.

In Whittlesey Martin Curtis has been given a surprise free pass in a town where the Green Party is fielding candidates in other wards.

In total there are 94 candidates to chose from which includes 38 Tories, 20 Labour, 19 Lib Dems, 10 Independents, four UKIP and three Greens.

One such Lib Dem is Christine Colbert, standing for district council and re-election to Chatteris Town Council, in Chatteris’ Birch Ward.

Councillor Colbert, who was joined today by fellow Lib Dem Chatteris Town Council hopefuls Jan Feekins and Josie Ratcliffe, said: “Yesterday we went out meeting residents as a team which we’re doing again today. Apart from that friends and helpers have helped deliver leaflets for me.

“Residents have been interested in what we’ve got to say because there are a number of issues across Fenland at the moment which affect everyone. We’ve worked hard to fight for people in the ward and we’ve listened to those who want a major supermarket in the town to.

“There’s nothing that has surprised me while I’ve been out campaigning as I’ve been doing it for so long now. After 20 years nothing much surprises me any more.”

The Lib Dem will be standing against Fenland District Council leader Alan Melton (Conservative) and UKIP’s Sandra Rylance.

Andrew Hayhoe, a resident of the Birch Ward in Glebe Close, enjoyed meeting the Lib Dem trio.

He said: “It’s nice to see some candidates coming and actually talking to us face-to-face.

“They’re the only ones we’ve seen down our road and I think it’s good that they want to come and see us. People end up in council that we just don’t ever see.

“At least today we can talk to the candidates, put questions to them, and put a face to the people who we have a chance to vote for.”

Only 60 candidates put their name forward in 2007. The election was won even before a single vote was cast as the Tories found themselves unopposed in 22 seats.

Hilary Chivall is standing as a Green Party candidate for St Marys Ward in Whittlesey this time around.

She said: “Fiona Radic - who is our candidate in Peterborough - has been the organiser for our campaign in Fenland.

“She’s been supporting us and guiding us and I’ve been out in the ward with leaflets to tell people to vote Green and to vote ‘Yes’ to AV.

“People haven’t been hugely interested as the weather’s been fantastic and they’ve been out having a good time. However, I’ve been surprised by the amount of people who have been supportive of the Green Party and how intrigued they have been about what we stand for. We’re an alternative that they haven’t had before.

“It’s a shame though that many people have been a bit sceptical about the Green vote and whether it would have any impact on the result if they did vote for us.”

Ms Chivall will come up against Roy Gerstner (Independent) and Tory Ken Peachey.

Labour’s Dean Reeves, formerly a Lib Dem candidate, took to the streets in the Hill Ward of Wisbech in the afternoon with his wife Jo and children Emilia and Sofia.

He said: “In the main it’s been a real family effort in the last couple of weeks although I have been joined by Labour supporters to help with the campaigning. “We’ve been writing to local papers, setting up a Facebook group and generally just getting my name out and about. It’s really nice to have the family support behind me. “It’s been difficult at times as there hasn’t been much engagement from the residents. I’m not sure if it’s the hot weather that has contributed to it but lots of people have joined up to the Facebook group which I’m happy about.

“I have to admit I’ve not had a single question that I haven’t been able to answer from a resident on my travels. This is because I’ve got full faith in Labour policies, locally and nationally.”

Mr Reeves will come up against Simon King and Bruce Wegg (both Conservative) and Lib Dems’ Luke Roscoe on May 5.

The most exciting battle across Fenland is sure to be in Waterlees, Wisbech, where nine candidates are vying for just two seats.

Michael and Virgina Bucknor are standing as Independents, Paul Clapp and Christopher Schooling for UKIP, Barry Diggle and Avis Gilliat for Labour, Ray Griffin and David Wheeler for the Conservatives, and Christopher Hancox for the Lib Dems.

The Conservative duo - who are fighting to regain their seats in the ward - were joined in their campaigning today by fellow Tories’ Simon King (Conservative candidate for the Hill Ward) and Samantha Hoy (County Councillor for Wisbech North and member of Wisbech Town Council).

Councillor Griffin said: “Basically we’ve been doing lots of leafleting, discussing and canvassing out and about in the ward over the past few weeks.

“We’ve been joined today by Simon and Samantha but our families have been a massive help. We’ve campaigned on our own but today we’ve come together for that final push.

“We’re getting a lot more interest now than we were in the early weeks from residents which is why I believe being out today is vital.”

Councillor Wheeler said: “The hardest question I’ve been asked is ‘what are you promising to do?’ And I always say the same thing to people who ask it.

“I’m promising nothing expect that Ray and I will do our best for the people of Waterlees and Wisbech. We made the same promise four years ago and I believe we have kept to it.”

• FOR more on our comprehensive build-up to the local elections visit this website’s micro-site. Click on the local elections Fenland 2011 link on the home page.