Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Atwood for the chop?

In May 2011 the Conservatives had a shock in Rusthall.  They lost to UKIP.  The result was:

UKIP: 634, Conservative: 560, Liberal Democrat: 540.

The Liberal Democrats published the best election address but did not campaign, had they done so the Conservative candidate (the retiring councillor) might well have come last.  The Conservatives ran a very poor campaign.  UKIP fought a very hard campaign.

Most galling for the Conservatives was that the success of UKIP placed at risk the seat of the other councillor for Rusthall, Bob Atwood the Leader of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.

UKIP will be up for the battle to win another seat in Rusthall in 2012.  The Conservatives may be hoping that the Liberal Democrats do not contest the seat as the latter's votes are more likely to go to the Conservatives than the anti- EU UKIP.  Then again, maybe not, as in my experience many Liberal Democrat voters are registering a protest vote and have little understanding of the policies of the party.
Thus the Conservatives may hope the Liberal Democrats and/or Labour stand and split the anti- Conservative vote with UKIP.

The key issue in the election will be the decision of Tunbridge Wells Borough Council to raise council tax against the wishes of the Coalition government.

One of my regular readers has commented on this as follows:

The budget could have been balanced without increasing Council Tax but by taking tough decisions that are needed in times of economic stress and by following the path trodden by the overwhelming number of Councils in not increasing Taxes. Not bottling out and becoming a pariah among Conservative Councils that have taken tough action in order not to increase Council Tax.

The Communities Secretary has commented on the fifteen Conservative controlled councils which either have or are proposing to increase council tax.

With two weeks to go, we now know that the majority of councils, over 300 in fact, want to freeze bills for their residents in tough times. Not everyone has set out their budget plans yet so I expect to see those taking up the Government’s freeze deal to climb further.

A minority of out of touch authorities that seem unwilling to accept our offer should face up to the fact that it is unnecessary and it will hit hardworking households in the pocket. Residents will spot that many neighbouring councils are able to offer to freeze.

In Rusthall, UKIP must be pinching itself. The Conservative Group has made a rod for its own back and the blame for the rise in council tax will be placed at the door of the Leader of the Council. 

My personal opinion is that I hope councillor Atwood holds his seat.  He has managed to calm down the febrile rhetoric concerning the civic complex, been party to putting pressure on Morrison to re-open a supermarket and has tried to bring the issue of the re-development of the former cinema site to a conclusion. 

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