2019 Local Elections, Agents Report

24 July 2019

This was our four yearly 'Big Election'. All 49 District Council seats, across 26 wards, and all Parish and Town Council seats within Braintree District, were up for election.

We had been planning this campaign for four years, with the principle intention of holding James Abbott's seat and retaking Bob Wright's seat in the Silver End and Cressing ward.

The secondary intention was for Michelle Weeks to be elected in Witham North ward.

The third aim was to stand as many candidates as possible across as many wards as possible. This would allow the maximum number of electors the opportunity to vote Green.

We also intended to stand candidates in as many Parishes and Towns as we could, without actually forcing an election, so that they could be elected unopposed, and finally to try and win as many seats as we could on Witham Town Council, which is always contested.

That was the intention; events changed things, for the better as it turned out!

Originally, we were intending to stand a candidate in every ward, from Hatfield Peverel and Terling in the south, up to the four wards of Three Fields, Hedingham, Gosfield and Greensted Green, and The Colnes in the North, and everywhere in between. I didn't manage to get a candidate up in Halstead Trinity ward, but we were well on the way until we heard that Nick Unsworth and Tom Walsh were planning to stand in Coggeshall, on an anti-incinerator ticket, and we decided not to stand there at District level. They were parish councillors and had the backing of PAIN (Parishes Against INcinerators), and CAUSE (Campaign Against Urban Sprawl in Essex), very strong support indeed. We heard later that the Lib Dems were also standing down in favour of them.

We have had a policy of not standing against strong Independent candidates for as long as we have stood for elections. This is to avoid taking support away from independent candidates, in order to maximise the diversity of views and opinions on BDC. For example, we never put up a candidate against Helen Pitchforth in Witham Central, even though James and I both lived in the ward at the time.

We switched Paul Thorogood from standing in Coggeshall to double up with Jenny Sandum in Kelvedon and Feering. Paul was keen to be elected so we still put him up at Parish level in Coggeshall.

As the Lib Dems had agreed a stand down in favour of the independents, we approached them to see if they would agree to a mutual stand down with us. In the end, not only did they agree not to stand against us in Silver End and Cressing, but also in Witham North, if we did not stand against them in Witham South.

We switched Steve Hicks from Witham South to join Michelle Weeks in Witham North at both levels.

The next development was that the stand down agreements extended to become a Co-operation agreement. In the event of any of the candidates being elected onto BDC, they would work together on key points, to oppose the incinerator, to bring in a workable Local Plan to oppose the 'Garden Towns' that BDC were planning in the open countryside, etc.

We have been campaigning for many years in our two target wards, so with a late switch to include Steve in the campaign literature for Michelle in North we started the long planned full campaign in both wards. A main colour leaflet to every house in both wards, a letter to each postal voter followed by canvassing, then canvassing of known voters, followed by a second leaflet which was originally going to be colour as well till we ran out of money for that.

This was a massive amount of work, and a big thank you to all involved, including members from Maldon District GP and Chelmsford GP.

Part way through the canvassing, Jenny Sandum asked if she and Paul could run a campaign in Kelvedon and Feering. We had not planned to run a third ward, but when she described the support and encouragement she had been receiving, we agreed on the condition it was self funded, as we had no money for another campaign. A simple leaflet was quickly drafted, printed and distributed, and Jenny started canvassing in Kelvedon.

We completed as much canvassing as we could, and the last of the leafleting went out around the Templars Estate on the Wednesday night, it is not a strong area for us, so we usually leave it to last. Mind you we were still more efficient at getting our leaflets out than the Labour Party. My brother, who is a Labour activist, was still putting their last leaflet out at 6pm on election day itself!

And so to the results. James Abbott and Bob Wright were both elected back onto to BDC, and both elected unopposed back onto Rivenhall Parish Council.

Michelle Weeks and Steve Hicks were both elected onto BDC for the first time, and onto Witham Town Council, Michelle for the first time Steve for his third term.

Jenny Sandum and Paul Thorogood were both elected onto BDC, and Paul was elected unopposed onto Coggeshall Parish Council, both for the first time.

In addition, Andrea Phillips was elected unopposed, and unexpectedly, onto Wethersfield Parish Council, for the first time.

Dawn Holmes was elected unopposed as expected, back onto Silver End Parish Council, and finally, as expected at the May meeting, I was co-opted back on to Silver End again.

Nick Unsworth and Tom Walsh, were both elected onto BDC for the first time, and back onto Coggeshall Parish Council, again.

Unfortunately, none of the Lib Dems were elected, but they significantly improved their vote in Witham South Ward.

The Greens and Independents have formed a joint group of eight councillors on BDC, and are now the official opposition!

All in all, our most successful election so far.

Next elections are the County Council elections on 6th May 2021, and the District's again on 4th May 2023. Anyone interested in becoming a target candidate, I am intending to restart candidate training sessions. All are welcome as non-target candidates. Anyone interested in becoming involved in the campaign, the next lot of leafleting will be the 'Green News' ward newsletter going out for the first time in Kelvedon and Feering as soon as we can find distributers, and the money.

Yours, Philip Hughes. Agent.

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