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Heyhouses By-Election: Runners & Riders

Heyhouses By Election Runners and RidersFollowing the departure of Conservative Peter Wood (see Jumping Ship), a by-election has been called for Heyhouses Ward and candidates have now been declared for the contest

Heyhouses is a very mixed ward demographically.

Architecturally it ranges from the individual properties and 'McMansions' on the Fylde side of Division Lane through individual owner occupied properties on Heyhouses Lane and environs, onward through the housing association properties around Pilling Avenue area and 'retirement' bungalows beyond.

It also includes swathes of smaller property around the Curzon Road / Albert Road areas around Hope Street Recreation Ground, and almost the whole of the Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club grounds.

Demographically it mostly follows the pattern of the coastal strip with an aged profile and fewer children, but these trends are slightly less pronounced in Heyhouses than in Lytham Ansdell, Fairhaven and Ashton Wards.

That means it's not an easy area to canvass and ask for votes from.

A campaign leaflet likely to appeal to folk in Division Lane probably isn't going to be that attractive to the areas around Hope Street and vice versa, so whoever stands will have their work cut out.

That said, it's mostly not as bad as some of the more rural wards where the front door of each property to be leafleted can be half a mile from the main road!

At first, we thought the election might be a small affair with maybe three or four candidates standing.

But toward the end of the period for notification of candidacy we heard it could get as high as six or seven depending on whether Labour fielded a candidate as they sometimes do.

Sadly, although candidate nominations closed at noon last Friday, the nominations list isn't set to be published until today (Tuesday). Time was, (when Fylde BC was operating effectively and ace elections officer Peter Welsh was in charge), it would have been published on Fylde's website by the close of business last Friday. Now it takes another two working days and a weekend. But that's 'progress' for you (at least at Fylde).

However now we know it is six, and they are (in alphabetical surname order):

DICKSON,  Bill    (UKIP)
A local man but a name that's new to us. We don't recall this chap standing before, and we've no other track record for him.

Nationally UKIP are doing well, picking up disaffected Conservatives and claiming to be vying with the Lib dems for third place in UK party politics.

However, it what might come to be a less than helpful move, UKIP's North West  MEP Paul Nuttall wrote an open letter to a Southport newspaper in April saying.....

"It is about time the government began to listen to experts such as Professor Peter Styles of Keele University and members of the British Geological Survey who have concluded that it is safe to resume fracking for shale gas in Lancashire.

If their advice had been sought much earlier, jobs would have already been created while cheap gas supplies would have filtered into people’s homes, reducing domestic energy bills.

Instead, decision makers have taken too long listening to the hysterical claptrap of groups like Frack-Off whose only intention it seems is to send us back into the Stone Age. Such groups care very little about the looming prospect of fuel poverty where pensioners must choose whether to heat or eat.

Let’s put our faith in science and technology, not out-of-touch ‘green’ mumbo jumbo."

So it will be interesting to see if that view is shared by the UKIP candidate in the Heyhouses election.

GILLIGAN, Carol Josephine (Liberal Democrat)
Standing as a Liberal Democrat (Lib Dems are not doing well nationally at the moment and vying with UKIP as the third party after Labour and Conservatives). Whether the national party picture will damage her campaign in Heyhouses is difficult to say. We think it might. That said, the Lib Dems have probably the most advanced electoral technology and software to pinpoint where they need to canvass, and they have a great deal of experience at 'pavement politics' so any national downtrend is likely to be mitigated by those positives.

Carol stood in St John's Ward in Lytham in the Borough election last year, coming last of five and had just over half the votes polled by each of Conservatives Brenda Ackers, Tim Ashton and Ratepayer Kath Harper. We thought that was a particularly disappointing result for her because we know she worked hard in that campaign (despite a personal ankle injury that limited her mobility for a time).

She is a successful businesswoman whose tone might make a casual observer think she was to the right of Margaret Thatcher, but she has embraced the Liberal Democrats and is standing for them again. Likely to put in the effort and run a tight ship of a campaign. She clearly knows how to make things happen, and is used to getting the job done. That augurs well for her future if she is elected. We wouldn't be surprised to see an attempted seduction by the Conservatives if she does get in.

NASH, Barbara Ann  (Conservative)
Conservative. A careers consultant originating from West Derby, and wife of Cllr Edward Nash (who serves on both FBC and St Annes Town Council). He's been closely associated with the 'Save the Vic' campaign which, like the Queensway appeal, could have its result appear in the middle of the election. Whether that would affect Mrs Nash's prospects in Heyhouses is unclear.

She has been involved in local politics since her teenage years, and stood as a Conservative in Ashton Ward in the Borough elections last year where she came fourth out of seven, but with only 90 or so votes separating the four unsuccessful candidates in Ashton, her likely popularity in Heyouses is probably too close to call using those stats.

She also stood for St Annes Town Council in Central Ward coming third out of five, but again, the votes cast for all but the last candidate in that ward were very close (only 50 or so votes separating the top four candidates) so there is no clear indication of popularity there either.

Her leaflet in the 2011 election stressed the importance of Ashton Gardens, headlined a 'No Increase in Council Tax', and showed how her address in Richmond Road had become the Conservative centre for local issues.

The Conservatives have done well in Heyhouses in the past, and they have a particularly effective party machine that gets out to canvass with great success. (We heard they were telephone canvassing last Friday evening).

That said, they are currently the (half) party of Government and the austerity measures and benefit changes being introduced by them might dent their popularity somewhat in parts of the ward, as might the promise not to increase local Council Tax which later changed to become not to increase the *average* council tax and still produced a 4.99% increase by the (Conservative controlled) Borough Council and a 26% increase from the (Conservative controlled) St Annes on the Sea Town Council.

ROBERTS, Ian Stanley   (Green Party)
Nice chap. Reasoned and measured in his dealings, he's standing for the Green Party. He has been a prime mover in the 'Anti Fracking' campaign regarding the Shale Gas exploration by Cuadrilla, and he stood for the Borough Council in Singleton ward (which has a Cuadrilla drilling rig) at the last election in 2011.

We said at the time that we thought his candidacy was about capturing a protest vote, or capturing publicity for what's going on. Either way we doubted he would get very far on that line. He actually polled 51 votes and came third of three, with Maxine Chew polling 369 votes.

He may do better in Heyhouses though.

He stood there for St Annes On the Sea Town Council in the last elections and came a very creditable third of five with 518 votes when the average of votes cast for all candidates in that ward was 531.

This time it's the Heyhouses Borough ward and it runs up toward Annas Road where another of Cuadrilla's drilling rigs is due to start, so he will no doubt be referring to that in his election literature.

But probably more importantly for him is the fact that, like Palmira Stafford, he is a member of the committee of the Friends of Hope Street Park (in fact he is the Chairman and was a prime mover in setting it up), and that's likely to bring him a lot of credit with folk around that area, so we could see him doing much better in Heyhouses this time around.

STAFFORD, Palmira    (Independent)
Standing for the first time, and as an independent candidate, she is a local businesswoman whose family business is a small property consultancy. She says she now has more time to devote to local matters following her daughter's move to university.

We've heard her speak at several public meetings and have been impressed. She was clear, logical, and spoke with evident feeling (but not emotion), and she delivers well.

She has strong local credentials being an active committee member of several local organisations including the Friends of Hope Street Park, The St Annes Carnival Committee, Supporters of Ashton Gardens and the Cats Paw's Charity. She acts as Hon Treasurer for several of these and should therefore be able to keep a good eye on Fylde's finances if she is elected.

Most notably however is the fact that she was a founding, and remains key member of the Queensway Environmental Defenders Group (QED) who have successfully (at least so far), fought off Kensington's plan to develop 1000 homes on land just off Queensway. That decision is currently with the Rt Hon St Eric Pickles and he will announce the result of his decision in the middle of the Heyhouses by-election campaign. That could produce a wave of jubilation that will give her campaign a welcome boost or (if George Osborne prevails over St Eric and the appeal is granted), it could all be a bit unfortunate. Either way, as we have shown elsewhere, QED put up an amazingly strong case on behalf of the local community and she and they deserve a great deal of credit for their effort, irrespective of the result.

WHITEHEAD, Bill   (Integrity UK)
Bill was born in the Fylde, and rose to fame as the organiser of the Parish Poll (a type of referendum) on whether St Annes Pool should be closed or not.

He is a one-time member of UKIP for whom he stood in the last County Council Elections for St Annes North where he came third, pushing Labour into fourth place and, some would say, detracting from the votes that might otherwise have gone to Karen Buckley, thus letting Liberal democrat Howard Henshaw take the seat.

Bill became disillusioned with the constraints of UKIP party politics and, together with his colleague Peter Ball, founded a new national party called Integrity UK.

This aims to be a 'party umbrella'. It has neither manifesto nor policies, believing that those elected as political representatives should be free to vote in the best interests of their electorate. So in that sense, Integrity aims to be a support and advice mechanism for those willing to share its banner.

Integrity fielded one parliamentary candidate in Blackpool South in 2011, and four candidates at the 2011 elections. Peter Ball became a Town Councillor at Wesham and thus Integrity's first Councillor. Bill failed to make the grade in Central Ward St Annes in 2011, but turned in a decent 412 votes.

Bill's message to voters in previous elections has been Christian family values and a strong sense of fair play. He believes in straight talking, and a no-nonsense approach.

And there you have the runners and riders that have been declared for the 2012 Heyhouses by-election. Barring any withdrawals (which is possible up to Wednesday), they are the names that Heyhouses voters will choose their new Councillor from.

So what is the likely outcome?

With six candidates it's very difficult to predict. Arguably the most likely outcome is a Conservative win because there is only one seat and the 'non-conservative' (as you might say) vote is likely to be split between five other candidates. That ought to make it easier for the Conservatives to win.

But there are several issues that have damaged them in voters eyes (both local and nationally), so it's difficult to call.

We think the decision that the Rt Hon St Eric Pickles will make about Queensway could have more of an impact than many would imagine. He's due to make his decision on Queensway on, or before, 21 June and the Heyhouses election is on July 5.

If he refuses Kensington's appeal, several of the candidates will (rightly) claim to have had a hand in that victory, but of the candidates assembled, it will be Palmira Stafford who will truly wear that crown.

Dated:  12 June 2012


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