Weybridge Riverside Result

For Elmbridge Council Result

Last Thursday, ten people stood for election to Elmbridge’s council for Weybridge Riverside ward – representing three parties (there was also one independent).  I was the only incumbent.  Only three could be elected.  The ward did not exist before – replaced Weybridge North and a large part of Weybridge South.  The previous councillors for these two wards were was represented in the following way.

2015 WR Cllrs

The result this year were:

WR Figuresand as a bar chart are:

WR Bar

The result was very close.  Effectively, compared to last time the Conservative lost a councillor and were very close to losing another.  It is often tempting to say that if the independent candidate had not stood the Conservatives would have lost all three councillors but none of us have a window into a voter’s soul.

Our electoral system does not work when there are more than two parties.  If the Labour party nationally adopted preference voting – even just for local elections in England (the other parts of Britain already have it) we would probably have a few Labour councillors in Elmbridge and we would be better for it.  However, under the current winner takes all system voting Labour around here is a gift to the Conservatives – I that each voter could vote for people they want and not second guess what everyone else might do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Riverside Ballot

BallotIn this borough election you have three votes.  This is only the third time that this has happened in living memory.  Of the sixteen wards in Weybridge our ward has the most candidates – ten.  We have the longest ballot for a local election that I can remember.  Most wards have around seven and the shortest ballot is five. There are twelve parties standing across the borough.  Weybridge Riverside is the only ward in the borough where all three major parties are putting up three candidates.  This year Elmbridge has one independent candidate standing and he is standing in our ward.

England is moving relatively behind Ireland, Scotland and Wales because we mark our ballots with an “X”.  Elsewhere – as with most of the developed world – people mark their preferences: 1, 2, 3, …  Even with the same ballot the results of these two systems are quite different.   Preference voting, in my view at least, gives the voter far greater choice as they can give their preference within parties as well as between them.  It also allows the voter to vote positively in favour of their preferred choice – in the knowledge that if their preferred candidate fails to win their will be transferred to their next favourite candidate.

Preference voting allows the voter to be more discerning.  Parties are not as monolithic as often presented.  Clearly there are different views within parties as recent events within Labour, UKIP and the Conservatives have shown.  Preference voting allows the voter to reflect those debates.

One preference criteria would favour me – being local.  I live about 30 metres from the town centre – only about 18 voters live closer to the town centre than I do.  Four other candidates live within the ward.  Eight candidates live in Weybridge but in other wards and two candidates, as far as I can see, do not live in Weybridge at all (both Conservative).  If we imagined our wards to be countries instead, although some candidates live in Britain, some of our candidates live in France or Germany and two Conservatives appear to live in Poland and Romania.  Age is another factor, or gender, or background.  It fact there are myriads of criteria that the voter can use with ease under preference voting that is not readily available with marking an X.

Preference voting would also encourage more people and parties to stand (no Greens or UKIP standing in Riverside) giving the voter a wider choice.

Preference voting also allows votes to accumulate.  For example, although Labour has put up three candidates in Riverside (unlike elsewhere in the borough) they have a very low chance of winning here.  Under preference voting, as each Labour candidate is withdrawn in the counting process their lost votes would be swapped to their colleagues (assuming that a voters would stick within a party before moving outside).  The remaining Labour candidate would gain votes and this might put her/him in contention.  Under the present system Labour votes tend to dissipate here.

Virtually everyone reading this will be voting this Thursday (many would have already voted).  Do remember to use all of your three votes.

Those of you who know me, will understand that, although I am of a party, I am not partisan.  I work with people of party and of none with the sole aim of keeping the best of Weybridge and improving the rest.  I hope that you have recognised the changes that I have already brought as the only Liberal Democrat councillor in Weybridge (out of ten). I feel that we could achieve so much more if there were three Liberal Democrat councillors working together for the good of our town.

Site Visits

Warehouse Thames Street websiteAs a member of the Elmbridge Planning Committee I have to consider planning applications throughout Weybridge and Cobham.

To investigate them further the ten members of the committee are offered site visits.  The visits are always the Thursday before the Monday committee, on a three week cycle.

Today, as is often the case, only the Chair of the Committee, Cllr Cheyne, and I turned up. Sometimes Cllr Fairclough turns up for Weybridge visits and Cllr Mitchell turns up for Cobham visits.  So we have three visitors at each site.  I cannot remember an occasion when all ten Councillors turned up.

Perhaps before you vote you might like to ask your favoured candidates whether they intend to turn up for site visits if they are on the planning committee.

Next Monday, Thames Street Warehouse will be on the agenda again to confirm compliance with conditions.

Hospital Directors

healthcareThe Ashford and St Peters’ Hospital Trust is currently seeking to recruit a number of talented and motivated individuals as non-executive directors to join its board.

They are seeking applications from candidates who have worked at senior level in a large, complex organisations, capable of chairing board sub-committees and able to contribute to the strategic direction and future success of Ashford and St. Peters Hospitals.

If you are interested, or know of anyone who might be interested – who lives within the trust’s catchment area – more information is available on the following here.  The closing date for applications is noon on Tuesday, 3 May 2016.

Refugees

Refugee GirlA group of students from the University of Nottingham have asked me to help them in their research on how knowledge of the contribution refugees and asylum seekers might or might not make to the British economy affects the public’s perception of them.

They have created an online survey which takes less than five minutes to complete. Have a go, or not, as you wish.

Directing Elmbridge’s Future

Council ChamberEvery year a main committee of Elmbridge decides what aspects of Elmbridge’s policies and processes should be scrutinized more closely.   It can also decide to examine decisions that have been taken and the way that current policies work.  It does not examine individual problems or complaints but focuses instead on strategic issues and policies.  In fact this role is not confined to the work of Elmbridge Borough Council but extends to anything that affects what it is like to live and work in the borough.

What aspects of Elmbridge’s work would you like scrutinized?   Add your comments below or contact me via my contact page.

Elmbridge General Election

ballot-boxNext May Elmbridge will have a new council as all the present councillors have to stand for reelection.  This is because the number of councillors has decreased from 60 down to 48 and the wards have all changed.  The Residents’ parties wanted to remain at 60, the Conservative party were keen on 48 and I would have been happy with fewer – say 33.    (The number has to be divisible by three).

There are 118 candidates competing for those 48 positions.  Twelve parties in all and only one independent candidate.  Weybridge Riverside will be the most contested ward in the borough with ten candidates.  Although there are twelve parties standing in the borough only three of them will be standing in our ward the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.  Traditionally (for the last forty year anyway) Weybridge North has returned Liberal Democrats and Weybridge South has returned Conservatives.  Without proportional representation Labour has no chance in Weybridge.  UKIP and the Greens are not standing here.  This time, of course, half of Weybridge South has joined St Georges Hill ward and the other half has joined Weybridge North.

Our ward also has the only independent candidate in the borough.  There used to be more in Elmbridge but governments at every level find it hard to function without parties.

Town Council

Weybridge Monument Green

What is your view – enter our survey here.

Villages in Surrey like the rest of England have had their own local parish government for centuries.  Most towns and villages in Surrey still do so today.  Weybridge is an exception – we had our town government removed in 1933 by act of parliament.

Eventually all of the parish councils in Elmbridge were removed.  Claygate has begun the trend to reinstate town and village councils in Elmbridge.  Read a view of the success of the new parish council in Claygate.  If Weybridge had its own town council it would be focused on drawing the community together to enhance the quality of public life in the town.

Some might say it’s just another layer of bureaucracy.  We’d say it’s not just another layer. We would argue that it is the most important layer of local democracy if we care about the quality of community life locally.  With a town council we can also have a bigger influence on decisions made by Elmbridge and Surrey.  So how does it work?  Typically, the town council, made up of ten elected local  residents, levies a tax – called a precept. The annual rate is set by the council itself.  For the average household this would be somewhere between £10 and £20 a year.  Funds raised through the precept must be spent on local needs and projects.  Best practice is that town councils are not party-political. Some of the things which could improve for residents if we had a town council are:

  • Bus shelters
  • Community centres
  • Halls, public Building
  • Entertainment and the arts
  • Footpaths
  • Highways – lighting, parking places
  • Maintenance of litter-bins
  • Public loos
  • Recreation grounds
  • Public walkways
  • Open spaces, playing fields
  • More public seats for elderly
  • Traffic calming
  • War memorial and wreaths

Town councils also have influence on planning: Elmbridge planning must take account of comments submitted by the town council. They can also acquire and sell land.

Enter our survey to give us your views on Weybridge regaining its town council.

Are you registered to vote?

voteRegistering to vote is essential. It means you have the right to vote at elections and can even improve your credit rating.

In order to know who is eligible to register to vote, the borough of Elmbridge has delivered Household Enquiry Forms to every home.  Everyone in each household is required by law to provide the information, and one person from each household needs to reply to the form, confirming who lives in each property. Elmbridge uses the information to publish a revised Register of Electors on 1 December 2015.

Go on website

Everyone should ensure a form has been completed for their household. They come filled in with existing information and if no changes need to be made, this can be confirmed online by visiting the borough’s website. Security codes on the form make this a simple operation. The form also contains information about alternative ways of responding.

Those failing to respond to the form might not appear on the revised electoral register and could lose their right to vote. Registering for other council services or paying council tax does not register you to vote. Furthermore, some organisations use the electoral register to check identities, which could make it more difficult to obtain some services if you are not on the register.

Enquiry form not registration

The Household Enquiry Form is used to update information – it is not a registration form. The borough uses information provided on the enquiry form to send out registration forms to any new electors. If you are a new elector, you can avoid having an individual registration form sent to you by registering online.

With the introduction of Individual Electoral Registration, each person is required to register to vote individually. When you register to vote, you will be required to verify your identity by supplying your National Insurance number and date of birth.

For more information visit www.gov.uk/register-to-vote and www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/

Elmbridge Meetings Televised

Elmbridge logoElmbridge’s full council and cabinet meetings, together with certain planning meetings, are now being webcast live.  This is your chance to watch online and see how the borough makes decisions that affect Elmbridge.  The aim is to promote greater transparency and accountability.  I’d welcome your feedback.  View previous webcasts