Thursday, 26 May 2016

By-election Previews: 26 May 2016

North Yorkshire county council; and
Hambleton council
Both caused by the death of Conservative councillor Tony Hall at the age of 66.  A structural engineer by trade, Hall had dedicated many years of his life to public service: four times Mayor of Northallerton, he joined Hambleton council in 1999 and served in its cabinet from 2006 to 2010; at the time of his death he was vice-chairman of Hambleton council.  Hall had been a North Yorkshire county councillor since 2005, and was the county council's executive member for children's services from 2012 to 2015.

Northallerton Market
Northallerton has been in the news this week, as North Yorkshire county council - based in the town and its largest employer - approved a proposal to carry out fracking in the Ryedale district.  It might seem strange that this small town - population around 16,000 - is the county town of North Yorkshire rather than such larger and more important towns as Scarborough, Harrogate and York itself, but Northallerton became a major town in mediaeval times under the auspices of the Bishops of Durham.  Later the town became a stopping point on the Great North Road from Edinburgh to London, and for the East Coast Main Line, and its location in the centre of the Vale of Mowbray - the wide valley between the Pennines and the North York Moors - meant it became a major agricultural and market centre.  Agriculture and light industry still underpin Northallerton's economy today.

The population figure above is slightly misleading, as the Northallerton urban area has outgrown the parish boundary and much of the built-up area to the south of the railway station - including County Hall - is part of Romanby parish rather than Northallerton proper.  Just to make things even more confusing, there have been recent ward boundary changes in Hambleton which means that the ward and county division boundaries don't match up.  The Northallerton county division covers all of Northallerton parish except for the part of the town centre which was within Northallerton Broomfield ward before 2015; Northallerton South ward covers the town centre and east of the town but not the south of the built-up area so might better have been called Northallerton Central (as the predecessor ward was before 2015).

Tony Hall had a safe county council seat; at his the most recent re-election in 2013 he beat UKIP 52-31.  On the district council, from 2003 to 2015 Hall shared representation of Northallerton Central ward with independent councillor John Coulson.  In 2015 Coulson retired and Hall easily topped the poll in the new Northallerton South ward with an enormous personal vote, polling nearly twice as many votes as his running-mate Huw Jones who finished just four votes behind UKIP for the second seat; shares of the vote were 49% for the Conservatives, 26% for UKIP and 25% for Labour who weren't far off winning a seat themselves.

There's a large degree of crossover between the candidates in these two by-elections.  Defending both seats for the Conservatives is Caroline Dickinson.  UKIP have selected Stephen Place to contest the county by-election, while their candidate in the district poll is Northallerton town councillor Dave Robertson.  The Labour candidate in by-elections is David Tickle.  Completing the ballot papers are Chris Pearson of Yorkshire First, standing in both polls, and the Greens' Michael Chaloner who stands only in the county by-election.

Parliamentary constituency: Richmond (Yorkshire)

May 2013 result C 825 UKIP 489 Lab 259
June 2009 result C 1191 Lab 431
May 2005 result C 1311 Lab 983 Ind 925

Northallerton South
May 2015 result C 1414/758 UKIP 762 Lab 739/654

East Staffordshire council
Caused by the resignation of East Staffordshire's only UKIP councillor Steven Dyche after less than a year on the council.  Dyche was elected in 2015 and served on the council's audit and health scrutiny committees.

Main Street, Stapenhill
Stapenhill is essentially a suburb of Burton upon Trent located on the far side of the river.  Traditionally a brickmaking settlement, Stapenhill's character was greatly changed from the interwar period by the construction of large council estates by Burton Corporation, and this can still be seen in the ward's demography: Burton's economy being based on brewing and manufacturing, the ward has very high levels of routine and semi-routine working; however, unemployment is not particularly high.

This demographic mix creates a Labour ward with UKIP potential in the current political climate.  The BNP had come second in Stapenhill in the 2007 election with 30% of the vote, demonstrating the potential for a radical right-wing party to break through here; and so it came to pass that UKIP did indeed break through in 2015, polling 31% with their single candidate Dyche; the Labour slate topped the poll with 32%, but their third candidate lagged a long way between the two councillors seeking re-election.  The Tories were third, not far behind on 25%. Labour have a lock on the local county division, the badly-drawn Burton Trent which was one of only three seats the party won in the 2009 county elections; in 2013 Labour had 47% to 29% for UKIP and 19% for the Tories.

Defending UKIP's toehold on East Staffordshire council is Sally Green, who was runner-up here in the 2013 county elections.  Labour want their seat back, and have selected their Burton party secretary Craig Jones who is still in his twenties.  The Tory candidate is Michael Teasel, secretary of the Staffordshire Regimental Association.  Also standing are Thomas Hadley of the Green Party, Stapenhill parish councillor Susan Paxton - the only candidate to give an address in the ward - standing as an independent, and former district councillor Hugh Warner for the Liberal Democrats.

Parliamentary constituency: Burton
Staffordshire county council division: Burton Trent

May 2015 result Lab 1251/1235/865 UKIP 1228 C 963/819/714 Grn 488
May 2011 result Lab 913/891/825 C 584/487/474 BNP 342 Ind 269
May 2007 result Lab 962/707/685 BNP 592 C 473/468/400
Sept 2005 by-election Lab 624 C 268 UKIP 45
May 2003 result Lab 1436/1180/1139 C 585/569/518

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