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St Johns Runners & Riders

St Johns Runners & RidersOn Friday 13th January, when triskaidekaphobics would likely be staying safe in their beds, the closing date for people to declare their intention to stand as a candidate in the Lytham St John's Ward by-election came and went.

We bring our readers a quick history of election results in this ward, followed by a look at the current runners and riders (Bamforth, Boarman, Hill, Lomax) who have now been declared, and are standing for election, before looking at whose NOT standing and reaching a  conclusion.

 BACKGROUND

The result of the Borough Council's 2011 full election was:

  • Brenda Margaret Ackers (Conservative) 71 Elected
  • Tim Ashton, (Conservative) 717 Elected
  • Kath Harper (no party/description stated) 704 Elected
  • Michael Scott Cornah, (Conservative) 672
  • Carol Josephine Gilligan (Liberal Democrat) 424

Subsequently, and following the untimely death of Kath Harper who was a member of Fylde Ratepayers, a by-election was called.

Mr Bamforth was proposed as a candidate and stood for the Ratepayers.

By-elections are usually much smaller affairs than the full borough election, and turnout often drops. On this occasion it was around 10% lower than the 2011 borough election, and that's generally not considered to be a big reduction in voter turnout.

The shock result of that 2014 by-election was:

  • Mark Bamforth (Ratepayer) 804 Elected
  • Brenda Blackshaw (Conservative) 205
  • Timothy Wood ( UK Independence Party) 100
  • Carol Gilligan (Liberal Democrat) 62
  • Bob Dennett (Green Party Stop Fracking Now) 53

Mark Bamforth swept the board. He had been a councillor a long time ago in the 1990s and we know him from that time. He was again duly elected and (as we said in 'Lytham St Johns By-Election Result.') at that time 'He will find Fylde a very much different place to that which he knew before, and we suspect he will take a little time to adjust to it, as indeed, it will take a little time for FBC to adjust to a man of action who is impatient to make things happen."

In the 2015 full election, Cllr Bamforth increased his vote, repeated his winning run, and added stablemate Roger Lloyd as a second Fylde Ratepayer Councillor vis:

  • Mark Bamforth (Fylde Ratepayers) 1,607 Elected
  • Roger Lloyd (Fylde Ratepayers) 1,028 Elected
  • Tim Ashton (Conservative) 916 Elected
  • Brenda Margaret Ackers (Conservative) 856
  • Christopher Senior (Conservative) 585
  • Jose Shackleton (Labour) 473
  • Paul Duncan (Independent) 390
  • Pam WINLOW (Liberal Democrats) 192

But Cllr Bamforth has recently been removed from office by a combination of circumstances that were known about, and entirely avoidable. It was an omission that brought shame onto the heads of those Councillors who could have - and in our view should have - taken action to prevent this costly by-election arising.

Their behaviour has been akin to bystanding to watch someone drown.

Those circumstances have been set out in our two 2016 articles 'Lytham: St John's Ward By-Election?' and 'Lytham: St John's Ward By-Election Due' - and readers wanting to better understand the background can follow those links.

But in this article we look briefly at the candidates who have been proposed. They are

 Mark BAMFORTH

From Lytham. Styles himself as a local family man. It's no great surprise that Mr Bamforth is standing again for Fylde Ratepayers . He is incredibly popular with his electorate and was a very hard working councillor who takes on the concerns of his constituents like a magnet takes on iron filings.

He is known to us as being the sort of chap who sets out his stall and gets organised with the minimum of fuss. An unceremonial, practical man who makes things happen.

He suffers from a disability called agoraphobia that affects his ability to remain comfortable in public gatherings, and Fylde's inability or unwillingness to make the procedural adaptions necessary to accommodate his medical condition are at the root cause of his being removed from the Council late last year.

Like most long term health conditions, his comes and goes in the seriousness of its affect on him, and his first two years on the Council passed without incident because his condition enabled him to attend enough Council meetings to avoid falling foul of the 'six month rule.' But eventually, when his condition took a turn for the worse, he was not able to do so.

Our readers will recognise that attending meetings is a relatively small part of the work of a Councillor. Most of it (sometimes called 'casework') is about helping your constituents find their way around, and get help from, the sometimes seemingly impenetrable world of local government.

Cllr Bamforth would probably have been top of the class for this aspect. We did hear tell of an officer complaining about the pressure that Cllr Bamforth had created at FBC by taking up the cases of his constituents and making over 500 phone calls to Council departments on their behalf.

His areas of activity over the last two years are listed as being: Lytham Fire Station (dual use by Police); Investigation of dog poisoning in Green Drive; pollution issues in Liggard Brook; road repairs; parking issues - especially with the YMCA and Lytham Festival; drainage improvements and the sea gates at Dock Road; and playground equipment at Parkvierw 4U.

He says his current issues and concerns are: Fracking, Lytham Library, Lytham Hall, flooding and pollution, dogs, green bins, ESME unit wards, mental health and value for money.

He is former postmaster in Lytham, so he is well known, and his caring personality makes him an extremely popular chap. We expect, and hope, he will do well again in this by-election.

 Jayne BOARDMAN

From Kirkham. Standing for the Labour Party. This lady is not known to us and we've yet to see her leaflet, so we're not able to offer much by way of information. St Johns is a ward of very mixed properties, and the Labour vote can be higher here than elsewhere in the resort area. St John's was formerly represented for many years by the very able and redoubtable Labour Councillor Wilf Callon who was in the same 'well-known and popular' mould as Cllr Bamforth is today. We don't expect a shock result like that for Labour in this by-election though.

 Paul HILL

From Lytham, standing as The Green Party candidate. Another chap we don't know and - as yet - we've not managed to get a copy of his leaflet. We understand he's in his mid-30s and very keen. There was once a Green Party councillor representing St Johns Ward (we think it was Fylde's one and only Green), and whilst we wish Mr Hill well, we don't expect an earth-shattering result from him.

 Paul LOMAX

From Lytham and proud of it according to his leaflet. Standing for the Conservative Party. He stood for them in Singleton and Greenhalgh in the 2015 election and polled 298 votes against incumbent Maxine Chew's 481 votes.

Conservatives often do well in Fylde. Overall it is the dominant culture of the area, so he must have a chance in St Johns - especially with the Prime Minister riding high at present, and the Conservatives nationally doing well.

We don't think Mr Lomax has been a councillor before - because there is no mention of prior experience on the 'personal letter' format election address he is delivering at present.

It's also light on the sort of things he believes in and wants to tackle as a councillor, so as yet, we don't get much of a clue about what he thinks the main issues are. He does say he wants to meet as many people as possible when he is out campaigning and implies that knowledge gained on the doorstep will enable him to focus most on the issues that matter to local families.

We wonder if that process might result in a second leaflet (nearer to voting day) talking about what he has heard from his would-be electors.

What he does tell us, is a bit about himself.

Socially he enjoys acting and theatre visits, and we understand he works in partnership with (Cllr) Peter Anthony (who also has a theatrical bent) at the Tea Rooms in Lytham Hall.

Mr Lomax says he has run a number of small businesses and is currently the Hospitality and Functions Manager at Lytham Hall. He says his charity work has raised thousands of pounds for local projects such as Lytham Hall, Parkview 4U and so on. He says he wants to do even more to support the area as a councillor.

 SO WHO'S NOT A CANDIDATE?

The notable exception from the list of candidates is anyone from the Liberal Democrat Party, and there are also no Independent councillors standing. We expected the latter situation, as the 'Fylde Ratepayers' currently have close links with the Independent group of councillors. But the absence of the Liberal Democrats was something of a surprise.

We have to say it was a pleasant surprise for us.

They had heeded the call from Cllr Paul Hayhurst not to stand in opposition to Cllr Bamforth in order to help him become re-elected.

This is a real turn up for the books because the Lib Dems are usually very active, and field people at every opportunity.

We do know there was a divided view amongst their local membership, with some thinking they should field a candidate, but in the end, the majority view was not to do so.

We also know a couple of individuals who are - or have stood as - Lib Dems in the past and will be delivering leaflets for Mark Bamforth as a gesture of support.

Our regular readers will know, (and as one of our long-suffering Lib-Dem friends is apt to jokingly remind us from time to time), counterbalance is heavily into democracy, but not so much into the Liberal aspect of their name.

However, on this occasion, we're happy to award five stars to the Fylde Lib Dem's for not contesting this election, and we hope their supporters will vote for Cllr Bamforth who, in our opinion, was unnecessarily removed from serving his electorate.

It would have been nice if the Labour Party had been able to do the same thing and leave a clear field, and the Greens as well. We didn't really expect the Conservatives to do so, though we hoped they might.

As Cllr Hayhurst had pointed out when he called for a 'clear run' for Cllr Bamforth at the Council meeting where the St John's Ward vacancy was debated, when the same thing happened to him years ago, and he was hospitalised for a long time, the Chief Executive and the (then) Leader of the Conservative group (Cllr John Tavernor) got their heads together and asked the Council to create a dispensation that allowed Cllr Hayhurst to remain a member of the Council.

We came a cross another, more recent instance of this happening in Hammersmith and Fulham Council who passed the following resolution:

  1. "The Council notes that Councillor Iain Coleman has not been able to attend meetings of the Council due to ill-health since 19 March 2012.
  2. That Council extends its sympathy to Councillor Coleman and wishes him a speedy recovery.
  3. That Council approves Councillor Iain Colemanís non attendance at meetings of the authority due to ill health up to 3 February 2013 pursuant to Section 85 of the Local Government Act 1972"

As 'Punch' might have said "That's the way to do it!"

 CONCLUSION

But Fylde's current Chief Executive and the current Leader of the Conservative group did not do what Cllr Tavernor had done before. They simply stood by and allowed the time to elapse, and the 'six month rule' to take its course - causing Cllr Bamforth to be 'automatically' removed from the Council because of his medical circumstances.

We're not impressed.

And with no disrespect to any of the candidates from other parties that are standing in St John's , we sincerely hope that the people of St Johns Ward share our view, and those who usually vote for other parties choose - just on this occasion - to lend their vote to Cllr Bamforth - partly to recognise the hard work he has put in since being elected, and partly to show disapproval with the manner in which he has been treated.

The election day for those in St John's Ward is 9th February.

Dated:  24 January 2017

 


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