September 28th, 2016

Parties battle for your vote

Updated: 4:30 pm, May 07, 2015

LOCAL elections take place in Coventry next Thursday (May 22).

Nineteen seats on the city council are up for grabs with 111 candidates on the ballot paper.

Four parties are fielding candidates in every ward while residents in Cheylesmore will be voting for two councillors after a by-election was triggered by a councillor’s resignation.

Here Matthew Bates takes a look at the contenders and hears from the parties in their own words on why they believe they can be trusted with your vote.

Labour

Coventry has long been a Labour stronghold and the party is in good shape – making up for more than three quarters of elected members on the city council.

And with six of the 19 seats up for grabs this time being Conservative-held, the party could strengthen its grip on the city.

Among those defending seats are current council leader Ann Lucas and deputy Phil Townshend, while ex-leader John Mutton is also up for re-election.

They launched their election campaign with a ten-point cost-of-living contract for Coventry.

It includes pledges to freeze energy bills, helping working parents with 25 hours free childcare for three and four-year-olds, banning exploitative zero hour contracts and backing small businesses by cutting business rates and reforming the banks.

Coun Lucas, who is aiming to retain her Holbrook seat, said: “These pledges will help Coventry residents deal with Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis.

“We need to do what we can to keep household bills low but at the same time protect the services that the most vulnerable in our community rely on.

“We are making the right decisions and planning for the future unlike the Conservative-led government who insist on cutting our services and giving tax break to millionaires.”

Conservatives

The city may have a small band of Conservative councillors, but the party is still claiming victory on council issues ahead of this election.

It was the Tories who first mooted the idea of a living wage for council workers – something that was eventually brought in by the new council leadership last year – and the party is still fighting over other issues.

Leaders said key policies were the retention of a 50-metre pool in the city, introducing more 20mph limits and parking schemes where residents want them, and tackling homes in multiple occupation.

Among the councillors trying to keep their seats is current Lord Mayor Gary Crookes – who stands in Wainbody – and the planned deputy for the coming year, Michael Hammon, an Earlsdon councillor.

A former Lord Mayor is also in the running to get re-elected on the city council with Shabbir Ahmed – Lord Mayor in 2006 – standing in Cheylesmore alongside Roger Bailey, who lost his seat in 2012.

Leader John Blundell said: “We are offering a positive alternative to the people of Coventry who want to see their council make a real difference in the areas they live.

“We want to see better roads and pavements, new jobs and a Council Tax freeze.

“We will also tackle the issue of homes in multiple occupation throughout Coventry and we will create a responsive, listening council that is flexible and ready to meet the challenges facing our City.”

UKIP

The talk of UK politics has centred on UKIP nationally over the past few months and they are expected to shine in next week’s European elections. But whether they can carry that momentum into success locally remains to be seen.

The group has never held a council seat in Coventry, but claims to be making progress in the city, mopping up disgruntled voters from all sides of the political landscape.

Unfortunately for UKIP voters the party was not able to muster candidates in all areas in 2014 and only 11 wards are represented in next week’s vote.

Chairman of the city branch Mark Taylor insisted the party could make an impact and finish third in terms of total votes gained.

He is standing in Wainbody ward while Colin Stubbs has targeted former leader Coun Mutton in Binley and Willenhall.

“The big breakthrough for us will be to get our first Coventry UKIP councillor.” Mr Taylor said.

He added proposals to scrap what he described as the ‘cruel’ bedroom tax, limit immigration and increase the personal tax allowance have all been well received in Coventry.

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

Coventry’s council chamber has been a quieter place without ex-MP Dave Nellist over the past two years.

Mr Nellist had long been an alternative voice in a mainstream party-filled council before he lost his seat as a councillor in 2012.

But the former Labour MP – now a Socialist Alternative candidate – is always a strong rival in St Michaels ward and this year will be no different when he tries to oust Labour’s David Welsh.

Mr Nellist leads the bill for the TUSC with the party again finding enough candidates to fill all 19 seats this year.

Greens

Also running a full slate of candidates is the Coventry Green Party.

The party may still be on the edges of politics, but lead candidate Laura Vesty claimed some Labour-voting locals had already pledged to switch their allegiances to the group this time.

She is standing in Holbrooks against council leader Ann Lucas and said she would be campaigning on local issues.

“We were gathering signatures for a safe pedestrian crossing at Wheelwright Lane and Hen Lane two weekends ago, and we received over 100 signatures in 90 minutes.

“Many people have been saying they really like that someone is working hard for them on local issues, and they plan on voting for me this time even if they normally vote Labour in general elections.”

British National Party

The BNP has 13 candidates in the city council elections.

Back in 2012 the party was proud to say it had their oldest candidate ever – a woman in her 90s running in Bablake – and among the candidates this year is Hunter Helmsley, a man who shares his name with a WWE wrestler.

It did win 2.70 per cent of the overall vote back in 2012 – a higher percentage than UKIP – and got more votes than the Liberals and Tories in two seats, albeit way behind Labour.

However, the party has witnessed a noticeable fall in media coverage this time around with leaders facing losing their seats in this year’s European elections.

Liberal Democrats

The party may help run the country in their coalition with the Conservatives, but the Liberal Democrats could only muster eight candidates in a city of more than 300,000 people.

Every other party has more city wide and, although the party has traditionally struggled in Coventry, it is two fewer than 2012 and a disappointing turnout.

Their best hope could be in former councillor Russell Field, who stands in Upper Stoke, but even he lost out to Labour by a majority of more than 1,500 two years ago.

He said his tenure had seen successful campaigning on local issues including helping making grass verges safe, improving Morris Common and road safety in Blackberry Lane, and many others.

Independents

Among the three independents standing this year is a former Labour and Liberal Democrat who is aiming to grab the votes of Coventry City fans.

Brian Patton is standing against council leader Ann Lucas, in Holbrook ward as part of a Get Cov Back to the Ricoh campaign to vote out key players in the Sky Blues saga.

It is the third banner he will stand under after leaving the Labour party and failing to gain a seat as a Lib Dem in previous years.

Another independent candidate is John Gazey, a former Conservative who will stand in Bablake. He had been on the city council for 22 years – including a spell as Lord Mayor – before being deselected at the last election.

He claimed the council needed that kind of experience more than ever thanks to lower funding and mainstream parties “losing close contact with the public”.

Coventry’s group of Conservative candidates ready themselves for this year’s election. Picture by Jon Mullis 19.014.011.cov.jm1

>Coventry UKIP candidates are led by city chair Mark Taylor (far left). (s)

The Green Party’s Laura Vesty hopes to pick up votes in Holbrooks. (s)

Russell Field could be the Liberal Democrats best chance of winning a council seat. (s)

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