Hart of the Matter
councils have begun grinding into action and the new councillors have managed
to get their feet under the table at least once, so it won’t be long before we
get some sense of the new dynamics which the electorate have created.
Edmundsbury’s ruling elite looks largely unchanged, so it is unlikely we will
see anything very dramatic from them. The majority is smaller but the
opposition is dispersed, so one presumes it will be business as usual in
Town Council promises to be a little more interesting, even though its first
meeting seemed determinedly friendly. Compared with five years ago when the
floor of the arts centre stage was wallowing in the blood spilt on the night of
the long knives, this was the epitome of amicability.
the Annual Town Meeting, at which there was a turnout of nearly a hundred residents
(if you include the new council who were all still sitting among the members of
the public) outgoing town mayor Roger Andre gave his report of the year and
fielded public questions in his last duty before handing over the chain of
office to the new mayor Cllr Betty McLatchey.
He then had
to go and sit among the public, having not been elected at all. There were many
tributes and thanks paid by him to those who had helped throughout the year and
then, I am pleased to say, thanks to him paid by the new mayor.
may think of him, of the old town council and of the Labour Party’s dismal
showing nationally, no one can deny he has continued the fine tradition of
Haverhill town mayors representing the town across the region, which is
probably their most important function.
you should never judge the pitch until both sides have batted on it, and it
will be interesting to see how well the new council compares with the old.
expects anything to change immediately and significantly then they will be
disappointed. Any change will have to be effected gradually and, old cynic that
I am, I somehow doubt there will even be that to show when the next election
A lot of
criticism was levelled at the old council on account of members on both sides
who failed to attend meetings. There should be 16 councillors, but I can’t
remember all of them ever being there at one time, and mostly we were lucky to
see eight or nine.
illness accounted for a lot of that. They were a pretty unlucky set of
councillors in that regard, one way or another, and we must hope that the new
ones will not be so undermined.
It was good
to see quite a few younger faces among them, which should help. But the proof
of the new members will be in their staying power.
has been remarkably lucky over the years in having some incredibly committed
and hard-working mayors and councillors, but it has also had its fair share of
shine of election and the excitement of power (however tiny) wear off, and
members find they can’t achieve what they want to achieve and everywhere they
turn they are frustrated by one or other tier of local government, that is when
the real test will come.
We will see
if anyone decides they are wasting their time, and suddenly finds a lot more calls
on their time from work or family which prevent them attending. That is also
when the strength of party loyalty will show, because this is, to all intents
and purpose, a hung council.
Conservatives are in power by virtue of having the most seats, but seven out of
16 is short of the nine needed for a majority. It may not be easy now to see
Labour and UKIP supporting one another, but politics is a strange animal and,
as Harold Macmillan famously said: "Events, dear boy, events”.
knows, particularly at this grass roots level, when a local issue may find
people on the same side who have absolutely nothing in common philosophically
For a start,
it only needs the six UKIP councillors to take a different view of an issue from
the seven Conservatives, for a whole new can of worms to open up – and that is
not at all impossible, because UKIP must fancy their chances at any by-election
which may arise.
It is in their
political interest to distance themselves from the Conservatives with that in
mind. One by-election victory might give them parity, two would give them
control – and they are good at getting their vote out in low turnouts.
if a vacancy were to arise for any seat they do not currently hold they are
unlikely to accept a move to co-opt from the same party, as was done in the
past. They have been strong proponents of calling by-elections in recent times
and will presumably continue to be so, despite the cost to the council tax
alone may find them diverge from the Conservatives. But there could well be other
issues. In recent times Conservative town councillors have been openly prepared
to disagree with and even oppose decisions of the Conservative leadership of
the borough and county councils.
It will be
interesting to see whether they continue to be so now they have control of the
town council. If they don’t, they are likely to be diverging from UKIP again.
But the most
ironic thing of all is that if the Conservatives and UKIP split on party lines
on a really vital issue for Haverhill, who will decide the issue? The three
Labour councillors. Now there’s a thing! Not quite dead and buried after all.