By-Election in Oxshott and Stoke d’Abernon Ward

Why was the by-election called?  Put simply it was because the incumbent, Cllr James Vickers, resigned.  Why would a councillor resign just after the local elections?  Of course, James knows but was his reason for resigning personal as the Conservatives say?  Reports say not.

First, a little background.  In the election of 2016 all the councillors were up for election at once.  This was because of boundary changes.

Oliver Chappell had the highest result so his term of office was set for four years.

 

Andrew Burley and James Vickers tied at second place.  So to determine whose office would last for three years and whose would last for two years, lots had to be drawn.

 

James Vickers expressed the wish that his term last only two years but there was a legal requirement to draw lots. James won the lot so he was due to serve for three years.  In other words until May 2019

 

It was clear that James would rather serve for a shorter term and to do so he could have resigned in May.  This would have avoided the considerable cost of the by-election around £8,000 to £10,000 for the borough and perhaps £3,000 for the candidates.

Second, the election in May resulted in gains for the Liberal Democrats, net gains for the Conservatives, losses for five of residents’ parties and a wipe out for one residents’ party.  The Conservatives totalled 24 councillors as did the Lib Dems and Residents.    Neither side had a working majority.  The Leader of the borough council, Stuart Selleck of Molesey Residents’ Party, chose to resign.

Without a working majority the new Conservative administration could not guarantee to pass their policies.  The Liberal Democrats believe that such an arrangement would have been in the interests of the people of Elmbridge.  To make the governing of the borough as smooth as possible the party leader agreed a protocol, the details of which are here  Operational Protocol 2018 19.

We, in the Liberal Democrats, expected business as usual.  We were newly in opposition.  However, it quickly became clear that internal squabbles of the Conservative party could not be contained in private.

A small point.  Usually, when the new cabinet is formed they sit in the front benches – as in the national parliament.  But when the council met for the first time some cabinet members had been bounced to the back benches by other factions in the Conservative party.

But then came the bombshell. At the beginning of every year, as each committee meets, the members elect the chair and vice-chair of that committee.  Normally the nominee of the majority party is elected unopposed.  Occasionally there is a contest between the parties for their nominees which is duly won by the majority party.  But this year, in one committee, the Conservatives proposed two councillors for chair.

When the presiding officer sought nominees, Cllr James Vickers nominated Cllr Dorothy Mitchell of Cobham.  Then Cllr James Browne of Cobham nominated Cllr Barry Cheyne of Oatlands.  The councillors from the other parties were dumbfounded. The staff found it difficult to mask their own surprise in their stringent professional presentation of independence.

Cllr Barry Cheyne won the vote and Cllr Dorothy Mitchell stormed out of the room and did not reappear for the remainder of the meeting.  Not long after this meeting James Vickers resigned.

However the Conservative try and present it in public, the Conservatives are clearly not happy bunnies.  By all accounts James Vickers resigned “on a matter of principle”.  He did not like the direction of travel of the new Conservative administration.  Not so much the policies but the general conduct of business within the Conservative Party.

Now you have a chance to make a real difference and vote for Dorothy Ford and the Liberal Democrats.

Cycling in Oxshott, Fairmile and Stoke

CyclingEvery time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.  H G. Wells

Cllr John O’Reilly, who represents Hersham at Surrey and is also the chair of Surrey Elmbridge Local Committee, is known as a cyclist and is keen to make cycling safer in Elmbridge.  To do so, would require a vision of what we would want to achieve over time and a strategy to get us there.

The Liberal Democrats in Elmbridge want to pursue the the aim of making cycling safer to reduce air pollution, congestion and to help people become healthier.  Cycling also supports the local retail economy and makes our towns and villages stronger communities through the increase in serendipitous meetings.

Vision  An Elmbridge of physically, mentally and spiritually healthy people of all ages enjoying fresh air and a high quality of life.

Mission To enable all the people of Elmbridge – who wish to do so – to cycle safely.

Strategy
To achieve our mission our strategy is based on our being:

  • Utilitarian. We focus on a person’s ability to cycle from home to the key places that make their life work: their school or workplace, their station, their town centre. Therefore routes to these places are dealt with first.
  • Network based. We understand that the benefits are far greater if networks are created.  It is little use to have a safe stretch that suddenly ends in a dangerous spot – like Blundel Lane Bridge
  • Inclusive.  We bring as many agencies, organisations and groups and people together to compound the benefits and spread the message.
  • Incremental. Although we have a clear and ambitious vision we know that many small steps made by many people eases the journey
  • Anticipatory. We take advantage of possible opportunities that might arise by anticipating requirements before they occur
  • Communicative. We engage with everyone and keep them informed
  • Sustainable. We strive to be socially and environmentally sustainable in everything that we do.

What would you like to see in a cycling strategy?

The Dutch and Danes developed a comprehensive approach over many decades.  A good place to begin is to help secondary students below the age of seventeen to feel safe enough (along with their parents)  to cycle to school.  Yet on cycling out of Reeds School there is little evidence that cycling is a serious possibility.  Everything else being equal student who cycle achieve more than those who are driven to school.

When we see most parents cycling with their children to primary school rather than driving – like the Dutch and Danes – then we will know we’d have cracked it.  It is much quicker to cycle than walk – although walking can be fun too.

Blundels Lane Bridge

The By-election Conservative Manifesto says:

Improve Blundel Lane Railway Bridge: This vital link is a major hazard for pedestrians, cyclists and riders. As a first step, I will press for a feasibility study to be conducted to examine options for improving access and safety for all users of this bridge. 

This bridge has been like this for decades – although the road surface has deteriorated recently.  Funny how the Conservatives only noticed it after the Liberal Democrats mentioned it in a recent Focus after talking to people on the doorstep.

Housing in Oxshott

This is what it says in the Conservative manifesto:

Build Affordable Housing: recognise the need to build more affordable homes in Elmbridge. I pledge to work with my colleagues to identify sites where additional properties can be constructed without negatively impacting existing communities.

Sounds good but why are these places left to rot for decades?  This publicly owned land in Waverley Road has been a housing opportunity for decades for decades but the Conservatives have produced nothing.

Dorothy Ford for Oxshott, Stoke d’Abernon and Cobham Fairmile

I moved from Germany to live on the edge of our precious Green Belt, at the very heart of our ward, 36 years ago.  My children enjoyed attending some of the local schools. I enjoyed sharing my love of music with Royal Kent School pupils by playing guitar and singing with them.

I taught languages at a university and at comprehensive schools before working on government policy in Whitehall, and occasionally in Brussels and Strasbourg. I now sing in choirs and study piano.  I am passionate about the enormous benefits of lifelong learning. Providing a quality education, including music and the arts, for all school pupils helps the pupils and society as a whole to blossom.

I am honoured to have recently been awarded the Ashdown Prize for my proposal to accelerate redistribution of food to the homeless and the poor.  This proposal has great potential to benefit the disadvantaged as well as the environment. I am closely wedded to both of these issues. As a teenager, on Saturdays I taught poor hungry children how to read and gave them milk.  As an adult I have helped a young mother learn to read at Oasis Childcare in Cobham, and I helped set up the Cobham Community Hub at Cobham Library. Volunteering to help others can be a friendly, rewarding experience.

It is a sheer pleasure to take daily exercise on our beautiful green fields.  I am fully committed to both safeguarding and enhancing our unique environment, and to building much-needed affordable housing on appropriate sites such as brownfield sites and town centres.  If we are to improve our environment’s footprint, our air quality should be monitored. There is just the first step forward.

I also campaign to protect all the rights of all EU residents.  Many of our local businesses, education services, care services and health services rely on EU citizens as staff, service providers and customers.

I look forward to continuing to listen to, and represent the views and values of all my fellow residents if elected a Councillor.  I offer not just a new face – but a new voice.”

Return to other items

Dorothy Ford (Oxshott and Stoke D’Abernon)

Dorothy Ford has been a resident of the Oxshott and Stoke d’Abernon ward for 35 years. While raising a family here, she taught French and German before working on policy for the central government in White-hall. She helped set up the Cobham Library Community Hub and taught a young mother reading skills. Dorothy enjoys singing in choirs, walking, growing vegetables and playing with two tiny grandchildren.

As a borough councillor, Dorothy’s key aims will be to

  • – enhance our environment by improving litter collection and by extending Elmbridge Borough Council’s air quality monitoring system to our ward, where Oxshott High Street’s heavy traffic poses potential problems
  • – protect and enhance our local Green Belt, including along Blundel Lane
  • – urge the Council to invest in affordable housing instead of commercial properties, especially if new housing plans are proposed for our ward
  • – help ensure the availability of quality local schools, healthcare and social services

1. Because national government support to local authorities has fallen 77% since 2010, this ward is suffering from poor services – from pothole repairs to school budgets. Our Green Belt remains threatened by inappropriate housing plans. Our Tory MP ignores our views by supporting a “Hard” Brexit – making us poorer.

2. I aim to safeguard our environment by measuring air quality, improving litter management, protecting Green Belt by prioritising brownfield sites and town centre development. I will strive to enhance local education, health and care services.
I will promote strong, fair finances for example by reducing council’s commercial investments and instead promoting council investment in affordable housing.