Unusually for a parish election, two of the candidates – Debbie Baker and Yvonne White, chose to stand under the national party banner of UKIP. Three independent or non-aligned candidates stood on a ‘Positively Ledbury’ ticket and a local market trader, Derek Durham, also campaigned. ‘Positively Ledbury’ is a loose grouping of like-minded local people who believe in working constructively for Ledbury’s future while keeping good what is best about its heritage.
In the run up to the election the remaining Town Councillors voted against supporting the issue of polling cards, despite being provided with evidence as to the impact these had on voter turnout – trebling or quadrupling numbers according to statistics for elections across the county going back to 2004. In response, John Jones, Herefordshire Council’s Head of Governance, sanctioned the issue of cards to all households in the town providing polling station and election information.
On the day, this translated into an almost doubling of the turnout experienced in the recent Leominster parish elections with Ledbury’s poll representing almost 22% of the total voter turnout. Fortunately fine weather is also likely to have been a factor, as was the undercurrent of feeling that this election was, in some respects, a comment upon the recent supermarket debate in the town; with prominent pro- and anti-supermarket campaigners standing as candidates.
In the end there was a very clear vote in favour of reinstating Liz Harvey in her council seat and also for the ‘Positively Ledbury’ ticket of Annette Crowe, Lily Fieldhouse & Melanie Roberts. With 65% of voters supporting Liz and nearly 50% voting for one or more of the independent candidates. In total 1516 ballots were accepted by the returning officer and votes cast were as follows:
Candidate Party Votes
Liz Harvey It’s Our County 984
Annette Crowe Independent 727
Lily Fieldhouse 724
Melanie Roberts Independent 686
Yvonne White UKIP 572
Debbie Baker UKIP 523
Derek Durham 416
Elections are a relatively rare event in Ledbury – the last one for the full town council being back in the early 1990s and most of the current town councillors have been co-opted onto the council over the last 18 years. Glad that this unhealthy state of affairs had finally been brought to an end, Liz Harvey commented:
“This is a great day for democracy and demonstrates that, given the opportunity, people really do care about what happens to the Town Council. I hope this will inject a renewed sense of energy and optimism into Council proceedings.
“I’m confident that all three of the new councillors will be assets to the council and to the wider community. Their ideas and enthusiasm will be a much appreciated.
“I know that many of my old councillor colleagues are angry and resentful of my decision to resign my seat and stand for election. I recognise my wish to be properly elected to my town council seat placed them in an awkward position – especially since I am already an elected county councillor. Having each made their own decision in that regard, I hope they will now put their personal feelings aside and welcome me and the three newly elected councillors into the council chamber. Annette Crowe, said:
“We are pledged to build on what’s great about Ledbury, working to create a town that makes everyone who lives here feel special. Big decisions are facing the town with new responsibilities being handed down from Herefordshire Council to local communities. What this means is that we need a Town Council with abundant clear thinking, energy, and intelligent people to fight for our interests, locally and in the County. We hope to play our We hope to play our part in that.”
Lily Fieldhouse, at 23 believed to be the youngest ever Ledbury town councillor, said:
“This is a fresh opportunity for the town and council. I hope to better represent the views of younger people on the council. I’m really looking forward to helping to deliver a bright successful future for our lovely town.”
Melanie Roberts, teacher and mum of four, commented:
“I believe that there needs to be a concerted campaign to protect and improve local services and facilities that benefit families, young people and the elderly. I’m pleased to be part of the team batting for Ledbury”