Council elections are postponed for a year giving Tories a reprieve

Co-founder of Pickering - Polly Taylor

The scrapping of the ballot on May 7 came after the Electoral Commission, which overseas UK ballots, says there are ‘real risks for a successful delivery’ of the elections because of the current Covid-19 outbreak.

It has been rescheduled for May 2021, when the County Council elections are due to take place.

The election of the Police and Crime Commissioner has also been postponed until then.

The news that elections have been put on hold for a year will be quietly welcomed by the Tory group on the Council, following its handling of the theatre complex fiasco which saw some £11million of taxpayers’ money wasted when the scheme was scrapped.

The party currently has 28 Councillors in the chamber, giving it an overall majority of eight in any vote.

Of the 16 seats that were to be contested in the planned May elections, 11 are currently held by a Conservative – including two members of the Cabinet, Cllrs Jane March and Carol Mackonochie.

If the Tories had lost just four seats in the 16 wards where elections were to take place, it would have seen its majority disappear and would have had to govern as a minority Council, relying on support from either independent Councillors or members of other parties.

A Cross Party Group, set up to find an alternative to the council’s £108million Calverley Square development, has ironically provided the Conservatives with a conduit in which to work with opposition parties in case it eventually loses its majority.

Alternatively, the Liberal Democrats if they get close enough, could form a coalition with the Labour Party and run the Council under a confidence and supply agreement. But the party, which has nine Councillors, would need to gain the lion’s share of the 16 Council seats up for election to become the largest party.

While the election was not yet in its official pre-election period before it was cancelled, political parties have been organising themselves and producing campaign literature in anticipation of the ballot.

Martin Betts, Labour campaign co-ordinator in Tunbridge Wells, says all the parties understand the need for the postponement.

He said: “Public health is the overriding priority, and if health experts believe this is one more necessary action to prevent the spread of corona virus, so be it.

“We are in exceptional times, and postponing elections for a year shouldn’t be a problem for any of the political parties.

“It will be just one more inconvenience we have to accept, collectively, as part of the cost of defeating the virus.”


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