Martin Curtis wins Whittlesey town £7,000 by election - at a cost of nearly £16 per vote cast- and calls for ‘supermarkegate’ inquiry

Martin Curtis.

Martin Curtis. - Credit: Archant

At a cost of around £16 per vote cast – or nearly £600 per letter of the signature he forgot to sign which prompted the £7,000 by election in the first place- Martin Curtis is once more a town councillor.

Cambs Times meeting with Whittlesey residents concerning Supermarket-Gate. Cllr Martin Curtis.

Cambs Times meeting with Whittlesey residents concerning Supermarket-Gate. Cllr Martin Curtis. - Credit: Archant

Cllr Curtis returned to politics last night after winning a Whittlesey Town Council by election – and called for an independent review of ‘supermarketgate’.

The outspoken former county council leader and former Fenland councillor had made a review of the Whittlesey supermarket saga a key plank in his campaign.

“ I know many residents still have major concerns about the supermarket saga in Whittlesey, in particular that every decision made seems to be about challenging our

expressed and clear wishes,” he had told voters.

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“It is also absolutely clear that there are lessons to be learned. For this reason I

am going to repeat my call for an independent review – it is the only way that we can be assured that everything was handled right and it is the only way we can be assured that lessons have been learned.”

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Mr Curtis, who quit both the county and district councils, won the Bassenhally ward in May for the town council – but lost the seat weeks later on a technicality.

His failure to sign an acceptance form in time meant he was disqualified and a by election called.

Cllr Curtis polled 308 votes this time round, with Labour’s Colin Gale runner up with 77 votes and Lib Dem David Chapman in third position with 51 votes. Turnout was 21.9 per cent.

Labour had called the by election following the disqualification.

Colin Gale, a Labour candidate in the May election, said: “On July 1, I took 10 names to Fenland Hall to trigger the by election for the vacancy town council seat.

“I feel the electorate needs a councillor who will fully represent them. Even though I am in a wheelchair I can still speak on their behalf.”

The by-election is expected to have cost up to £7,000 to stage.

Community activist Roy Gerstner and a regular candidate in local elections did not stand this time since he felt the “political landscape” favoured the Conservatives.

But earlier he had accused Cllr Curtis of “treating the electorate with disdain” by not knowing the rules that prompted his qualification; Mr Gerstner branded the costs involved of re running the vote “a waste of council taxpayers’ money”.

Cllr Curtis said last month that he failed to realise that by not being at the town council annual meeting on May 20 – when all councillors were expected to sign their declaration of acceptance –that he would be automatically disqualified.

“I never forgot, to forget means you have to know in the first place,” he said. “The rule I have fallen foul of applies to town and parish councillors who have signed before the annual meeting.

“In Whittlesey no advice was given beforehand that the form needed to be signed; there was an expectation that it would be signed by councillors at the AGM. I had to give apologies for that meeting because of a work commitment. Which I did at 11.43am on the day of the annual meeting. No advice was given to me that the form needed signing even after that.”

He added: “Ultimately I accept this is my responsibility. However, I have failed to sign a form I didn’t know about nor was advised about. I have had huge support from my fellow town councillors and aim to continue.”

Editor’s note: Sainsbury’s has permission to go ahead with a supermarket in Eastrea Road but are awaiting the outcome of a final application to amend conditions. They’ve hinted that unless outstanding issues are settled by the first week of October they may pull out.

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