Wiltshire Publications

Town Council Election called off: 15 seats but only 8 candidates

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 11th, 2017 at 12:31 pm.

WESTBURY will not have a town council election this year because only eight people put themselves forward to be councillors.

Despite having a population of around 15,000 people, Westbury does not have enough candidates to fill its 15-person town council at the election in May. The shortfall means the council will be formed  without an election and the eight people who stood for election will be automatically appointed.

Some or all of the seven empty seats are expected to be filled by co-option, meaning the council will pick who joins.

Eight of the current councillors – more than half –are not running for re-election, and only two new people have stepped up to replace them.

Long-standing councillors are disappointed by the lack of interest.

Councillor Gordon King, who has been on the town council for 22 years and is also a county councillor, says there are still things to fight for in Westbury.

He told White Horse News, “I’m extremely disappointed, but unsurprised as there is a feeling of great apathy in Westbury at the moment.

“People aren’t happy with how the town is treated by Wiltshire Council, with the lack of opportunities in the town and low retail offering, and public services moving out of the town.

“We are faced with an uncertain future, but it’s always better to be positive about what can be done to make things better.”

Current town councillors Cunningham, Hawker, King, Morland, Sutton and Tout will form the new town council alongside new members Jane Russ and Mike Kettlety.

Both new recruits are members of the Labour Party, now the biggest party on Westbury Town Council with three seats.

There will still be an election for the three Westbury seats on Wiltshire Council. 11 people have put themselves forward for the £12,000-per-year roles. Of those, only five are also standing as town councillors which is an unpaid role.

Candidates Russell Hawker,  Mike Kettlety, Gordon King, Jane Russ and Mike Sutton are the only ones standing for both town and county seats.

Eight existing councillors – the majority of whom are former mayors – will not return after May. Current Mayor of Westbury, cllr Stephen Andrews is one of them.

He said, “I am disappointed that so few people have put their names forward for election. If people believe that they cannot make a difference then they do not understand what the council can do. People may think it takes a long time to get things done; this is because not every councillor is going in the same direction, so the role involves a considerable amount of patience and persuasion.

“I have decided not to run again as I shall be 70 years old at my next birthday. I have been a councillor for 10 years now and I believe that is long enough. A number of my colleagues have voiced similar reasons for not standing again, although I cannot answer for them.”

Town councillors are not paid and are generally expected to attend between one and three meetings per month.

“Being a town councillor is a lot of work for no pay,”cllr Ian Cunningham said. “It’s a shame that more people didn’t stand; I think local democracy is very important and the council works better when there are more people voting and contributing ideas.

“The parties are more interested in having power at the county level, while the town council is much more like volunteering. It’s far less glamorous and we’re not making ground-breaking decisions, but it’s important work for the town.

“We’ve lost some good councillors this year, so if we do co-opt more members, I hope they will be people who are already active in the town and are willing to get involved.”