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Elections: Who runs Hertsmere - you decide
With just weeks to go before voters head to the polls to decide who will take the helm at Hertsmere Borough Council, the Borehamwood Times spoke to the main parties to find out about their plans for the borough.
Unlike the nearby London boroughs, which elect their whole council in one election every four years, Hertsmere works differently.
Elections are held annually, with a third of councillors at a time elected for a four-year term. However, every four years, Hertfordshire County Council holds its own elections.
But a Tory-led proposal could change all that next year, as a motion to create a system in which councillors are voted every four years is due to be heard by Hertfordshire County Council in June.
The authority is currently made up solely of Conservatives and Labour councillors, with no Liberal Democrat, Green or UK Independence Party representatives holding any seats.
Comprising of Borehamwood, Bushey, Potters Bar and Shenley, 35 seats belong to the Tories, with Labour holding just four seats.
However, the Labour group has no chance of leading the council this year even if they were to win all seats being contested because this would still leave them with 17 seats.
With 39 seats up for grabs on the council, the leading party would need to win a majority of 19 seats to take power.
In recent months, the most talked about subject in Borehamwood has been the Elstree Corridor development, where around 1,200 new homes will be built near the Elstree Way.
Conservative leader Morris Bright told the Borehamwood Times: “We have got to build in a way that benefits the area – that includes retail blocks, cafes, schools and health centres.
“If you look at the independent surveys in recent years, 90 per cent of people are happy in the area and Hertsmere was named as the happiest place to live in Hertfordshire.
“People trust this authority with the Conservatives. The reality of it is we won’t make promises we can’t keep, and we don’t raise promises unnecessarily. We ask residents what they want, and listen.
“We won’t cut services, we’ll continue to improve them.”
In the last five years, the Tories – along with the county and town councils – have frozen council tax to make a collective saving of £300 a year per household.
Another issue involves the potential selling off of the well-loved Maxwell Park Centre, which the Tories listed as the third favourite site for a new school in the Elstree Way Corridor action plan.
“I’ve organised meetings with county officers to look for a long term solution. We managed to give it an extra year last year, but that’s not enough. Now, we need a way forward and we need certainty.”
Labour group leader Cllr Ann Harrison said the group will “do their best” to fight for the centre.
She said: “We’re concerned about Maxwell Park, and we’re struggling with the fact that the Maxwell Park development was included in the plan in the first place.
“The Tories say they’ll fight for it – but why did they hand it over on a silver plate in the first place? We’ll do things to try and discourage them from selling.
“If it comes to that, we’ll make them get a compulsory purchase order.”
She also raised concerns about the lack of affordable housing in the borough, and fears it will force local people out of the borough.
“We understand that’s a government policy – but at least give the residents something. Only a third of houses being built will be affordable.”
Other issues the Labour group has pledged to improve include filling the borough’s pothole-ridden streets and ensuring a tenth of Hertfordshire Council’s £9m road budget is spent on Borehamwood.
The opportunity of providing candidates to enable voters to exercise their democratic prerogative of choice remains a core objective of UKIP in all elections now and in the future.
UKIP is contesting 12 seats, with former Labour councillor Frank Ward now leader of Hertsmere branch of the party.
He said: “We have a wide range of candidates for the local elections with experience of living within the community of Hertsmere.
“We listen patiently to complaints from members of the public about the serial failure of both Conservative and Labour elected councillors to place their needs and interests before the policies of their respective parties.
“Unlike the other three main parties which are jaded and arrogant in taking the public for granted, UKIP as a new party with new ideas and new hope for the future will place the needs of the people before party political interests.”
A Hertsmere Liberal Democrat representative was unavailable at the time of going to press.
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