Thousands of people from across Northamptonshire will cast their vote today in an election to decide who should run Northamptonshire County Council.
While General Elections may generate bigger headlines in the national news, it could be argued the county council election is equally, if not more, important to the everyday lives of voters.
While it is the Government which makes decisions on big topics of the day, such as which countries the UK should give aid to and how much income tax people should pay, it is the county council which has the final say on key issues such as whether Northamptonshire’s libraries stay open, how often potholes get fixed and how social care services are delivered.
For the past eight years, Northamptonshire has had a Conservative-controlled county council with opposition members from Labour, the Liberal Democrats, UKIP and independents.
At the last election, there were 73 seats up for grabs on the authority, but this year all that will change.
Alterations to boundaries across the county mean that only 57 people will now be elected. That change means the area each councillor will cover has changed radically, with some old wards being scrapped and many new ones being created.
This means the outcome of the vote is far from a foregone conclusion and every party standing for election will have to fight for each vote.
Of the traditional ‘big parties’, only the Conservatives and Labour have fielded candidates for all 57 seats. Behind them are the Liberal Democrats with 54, UKIP with 44, The Green Party with 14, The British National Party with 11, The English Democrats with five, and the Trade Unionists and Socialist Coalition with four.
There are also eight independent candidates standing across the county and individuals standing for the Christian Peoples Alliance and Northampton Save Our Services.
Polling booths open from 7am today until 10pm. The count will be held from 2pm on Friday, with a result expected by about 6pm.
The parties hoping to get your votes...
‘We have three basic themes, the environment, the economy, and the really vulnerable people in our county. We pledge to look after and enhance our environment and heritage. We pledge to work to create a prosperous local economy with good jobs, schools, low council tax and a safe society. Above all, we pledge to protect the vulnerable and look after those people in our communities, young and old, who truly need help in living their lives happily and properly provided for.
We will continue our eight year record of having the lowest county council tax in the whole of England.’
‘Despite the difficulties we face, Labour has, and always will, stand for a better tomorrow for everybody in Northamptonshire and a decent today for the weakest in our community. Labour’s Key Pledges to Northamptonshire: Labour will put care for the elderly before profit. Labour will create training opportunities countywide. Labour will turn street lights back on. Labour will invest £1 million in public transport. Labour will invest in community police officers. Labour will invest in youth clubs. Labour will pay for this by: Cutting out the offices in Brussels, cut management costs, cut consultants.’
‘Northamptonshire Conservatives have made the wrong choices. The Liberal Democrats have four priorities: A fairer start and better jobs, safer streets, support when you need it and cutting Tory waste, such as their £6m quango with an office in Brussels. We are putting the environment at the heart of our manifesto. Our solar farm plan demonstrates how we can increase opportunities for young people and tackle climate change. The Liberal Democrats are horrified by the recent scandal on child protection. We are proposing a new deal for vulnerable children including more tuition and extra-curricular opportunities.’
‘The UK Independence Party is committed to common sense policies formed by listening to the people of this county. We respond to the every-day concerns of the people without the restrictions of party red tape. We would improve roads, keep libraries open, turn the lights back on, stop wasting money on keeping a Brussels office, and spend that money on local services. We will fight hard for the elimination of waste and bureaucracy and will not support knee-jerk, ill-thought through measures using the “cuts” as an excuse for the slash and burn philosophy of the other parties.’
The Green Party
‘Greens are campaigning to reduce the impact of government cuts in council services. Reform of the children in care provision is our top priority. We’ll protect green fields and rejuvenate urban areas. New housing and industrial areas must be linked by good public transport. Local bus services must be improved; more should be done to promote walking and cycling. We’ll introduce 20mph limits in all residential areas. Concerns about street lighting will be addressed. Waste management will be developed; no more incinerators but better recycling activities. A Green on the council will mean spending scrutinised and decisions questioned.’
British National Party
‘We’re broadening democracy by giving voters a bigger choice of candidates. A local council is where a great deal of important decisions can be made, despite what Government policies dictate. We realise there’s disillusionment with the old parties of national decline. We accept some immigration into Britain has always happened and always will, but present levels are unsustainable. We don’t have the jobs for our own young people, including children of second and third generation immigrants. While we can’t change that at a local level, it’s local services that bear the brunt of Government cuts while we pay billions to the EU.’
‘English Democrats have no rich backers from big business or unions. Our candidates have full-time jobs and pay their own election expenses. We’re not in politics for personal gain. In Northamptonshire we’re suffering over-development, forced on us by government. Our countryside is being destroyed because the Government cannot control the numbers coming into this country. England is the most densely-populated country in Europe. We need to leave the EU and regain control of our borders. We believe England isn’t being treated fairly by devolution. Only here do we pay for prescriptions. English Democrats stand up for all of England.’
TUSC Trade Unionist & Socialist Coalition
‘TUSC stands for an alternative to cuts in services and the big business agenda of the main parties.
Most council funding comes from central government and has been cut by 28 per cent, a loss of £120m, while demand increases due to the recession. But there’s £120bn of unpaid taxes by the super rich and corporations every year plus £800bn sitting idle in the accounts of big business. Councillors don’t have to vote for cuts. If councils refused to implement them, the Government could be made to fund local services properly. Even one anti-cuts councillor in each authority would make a difference’.
Also standing in the election are Timothy Webb, for the Christian Peoples Alliance in Moulton; Dave Green, for Northampton Save Our Services, in Duston East; independent Mohammed Uddin, in Castle; independent Liam Costello in Nene Valley, independent Stuart McKay, in Corby West; independent Christopher Groome, in Burton & Broughton; independent Belinda Humfrey; in Desborough; independent Richard Gell; in Higham Ferrers; independent Peter Baden; in Thrapston; and independent Bob Seery; in Thrapston.