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In Full . . .

THE VILLAGE VIEW

Posted on March 30 2017 at 2:47:01

Long-time readers of The Village will know this magazine has no party political axe to grind and is, indeed, a fervent advocate of removing national politics from local government.

The problems created by allowing candidates to stand for election to local councils wearing a coloured rosette and then, once elected, to vote along party lines rather than in the interests of those who elected them have been discussed many times here.

But as another local election looms, this time to Worcestershire County Council, we can’t help but once again urge villagers to vote for the candidate on the ballot sheet, not the party they are representing.

In the past, this tendency to vote for the party rather than the person has resulted in the election of councillors deemed insufficiently connected or active in local issues.

Take Roger Smith, of Catshill, who stood for Alvechurch Village ward in the Bromsgrove district elections in 2015.

He wasn’t well known in the village but he pledged at the Annual Parish Meeting just before the election that he would attend monthly parish council meetings. Also, he stood as a Conservative.

Did the duly elected Councillor Smith then come to the parish council’s meetings to serve the valuable purpose as a conduit for information between Bromsgrove and Alvechurch?

No – and his continued absence was highlighted at last month’s full council where parish councillors were given a large print-out of a photograph of Coun Smith in their meeting papers, so they would “know what he looks like”.

Similarly, Alvechurch parish councillors wrote to the leader of Worcestershire County Council in 2014 in their frustration at the non-appearance of the Conservative Coun June Griffiths at their meetings.

The response they received was “once elected, some councillors felt their work was in Worcester and not in their wards”. . . as if that was satisfactory.

But the ground is shifting. In the Bromsgrove elections of 2015, there were only two candidates for the Barnt Green and Hopwood Ward: a Tory member of the district council’s cabinet and an independent village resident.

The independent, Charlie Hotham, swept in by 1,066 votes to 637 as villagers turned their backs on “just voting Tory”.

Since then, Coun Hotham has proved to be a valuable asset both to Barnt Green and to Alvechurch, where he has attended almost as many meetings as this magazine’s reporters.

He has worked very hard locally to try to improve the lives of people living close to the activities at Mayfield Farm in Hopwood and has, with his independent colleagues, fought district-wide to make sure councillors will have a voice in the forthcoming Green Belt review.

Coun Hotham has now decided to stand for the county council, to give the people of the Alvechurch Division a voice at Worcester.

Judged on his past performance, and bearing in mind the frustrations felt by those dealing with the current representative, we hope the voters of Alvechurch Division will on May 4 ignore the box that says “Conservative” and put their cross next to the name of Charles Hotham.


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