Election 2017: Parties vie for your Essex County Council vote

PUBLISHED: 08:52 25 April 2017 | UPDATED: 08:52 25 April 2017

County Hall, Chelmsford, home of Essex County Council. Picture: ARCHANT

County Hall, Chelmsford, home of Essex County Council. Picture: ARCHANT

As polling day looms, we asked each party to submit a short version of their manifesto for anyone undecided in the Essex County Council elections.

Local elections 2017Local elections 2017

Voters across Essex head to the polls next week to elect 75 members of Essex County Council.

As it stands at County Hall the Conservatives hold 44 of the seats – and also held the one vacant seat before the death of the councillor.

While it is unlikely the Tories will lose overall control of the authority, opposition parties will be looking to make gains and improve upon the nine seats they currently hold in mid and north Essex.

Scroll down to see why each party thinks you should vote for them.

Graphic showing break-down of seats at Essex County Council prior to the 2017 election. Image: ARCHANTGraphic showing break-down of seats at Essex County Council prior to the 2017 election. Image: ARCHANT

Ukip won a shock nine seats at the last election making them joint second-biggest party with Labour and the Lib Dems, but have since seen their numbers whittled down to six.

But as the national debate around Brexit, and the snap general election taking place five weeks after this poll, continues, the Eurosceptics will look to make gains.

The party currently holds no seats in Tendring, which includes Clacton, but there could be some close battles – including three-way splits in Clacton North, Clacton West and Harwich between Ukip, Conservatives and Labour.

The Lib Dems will have a big focus on Colchester – where the party is part of the ruling borough council coalition – trying to capture some of the resurgence the party has seen nationally and grow the three seats they hold there.

Labour, which holds three seats in north Essex alongside its strongholds in Harlow and Pitsea, will look to take seats in both Colchester and Tendring.

Braintree district is likely to remain mostly blue, though the Greens – who currently hold Witham South – will look to increase their share of the vote in this district particularly, where development is a big issue.

In Uttlesford, local group Residents 4 Uttlesford are standing candidates in each of the four seats. As well as looking to hold onto the Saffron Walden division – which current R4U councillor John Lodge is stepping down from – they will also look to topple another Conservative.

Each of the four seats is also being contested by Labour, Lib Dem, Ukip and Green candidates. But with the district the closest in Essex to voting Remain – Brexit won by just 705 votes – Ukip may struggle to gain traction here.

Conservative

Essex Conservatives say they are standing on an excellent financial record having saved more than half a billion pounds, cut red tape and waste at County Hall, frozen council tax for five out of six years while at the same time protecting front line services.

They have invested millions of pounds ensuring primary roads are resurfaced.

The party says it has invested in young people by increasing the number of school places and has plans to extend existing schools and build new ones.

Their clear commitment is to do more. They plan to improve skills for everyone to make sure Essex meets the demands of a modern economy – already having created 3,000 apprenticeships. The party wants to attract new larger employers to ensure people have the chance of good, well-paid, jobs locally.

Above all they believe in protecting and providing for older and more vulnerable people.

Green

The Green Party manifesto offers a five-point plan to reform Essex County Council, cutting councillors’ perks and opening meetings to the public.

It says it will stop corporate credit cards, chauffeur-driven cars and trips abroad.

It will reduce councillors’ allowances to the average full-time working wage.

All council meetings will be open to the public.

The aim will be to reduce waste and to listen to the community. It will end the project for the incinerator at Rivenhall Airfield, near Braintree. It will fix potholes quickly, sort out parking problems and listen to the community on issues.

There are 54 Green Party candidates standing in Essex and a Green presence in all 12 local authority areas, including Uttlesford, Braintree, Chelmsford, Maldon and Colchester. Nationally, the Greens have 1,561 candidates, overtaking UKIP’s total.

Party membership has trebled since 2013.

Labour

The Labour manifesto promises housing, jobs, apprenticeships, training and “a real living wage”.

It also pledges to maintain services and fight the cuts, as well as to mend pot holes.

The party states it will guarantee free bus passes for the elderly and extend this service to young people helping them travel for training and work.

In partnership with businesses and training organisations Labour promises to promote skills, from science and technology to the creative and performing arts.

It wants to restore a professional, countywide, youth careers service, and create apprenticeships as part of the education service.

Labour will demand more police and PCSOs on the street, oppose cuts to the fire service, and adopt a “see it, fix it” approach to pot holes. It will restore the meals on wheels service.

Labour will only raise council tax to deal with the “crisis” in social care.

Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats have a number of issues that they tackle in their Essex County Council manifesto.

Among the areas the party “wants to make a difference on” are education, transport and policing.

The Lib Dems say they will demand visible policing and bring back village PCSOs.

They will protecting the county’s rural environment from fly-tippers and speculative developers – and also oppose extra runways at Stansted Airport.

In the area of education, the party pledges if elected to freeze school transport charges, and back Essex teachers and parents fighting Conservative school funding cuts.

On the roads, the party will demand road repairs are done properly, not just patched up, and provide concessionary bus fare passes for job seekers and apprentices as well as protecting those of pensioners.

The Lib Dems also say they will reviewing the night time street light switch-off.

Residents 4 Uttlesford

The Residents for Uttlesford party says Essex County Council takes 72p in every £1 of our council taxes but our schools are full, buses cut, and roads potholed. They aren’t spending our money on our priorities.

The problem is that complacent politicians, many in place for decades and protected by their national parties, take our taxes and ignore our needs. We don’t need career politicians. R4U is genuinely different – it is the ONLY vote that delivers better local representation, the party says.

R4U says that residents agree. Residents 4 Uttlesford is now the second largest group at Uttlesford District Council, recently capturing 60% of the vote in a local by-election – more than all the other parties combined. Their campaign promise is “Residents not Politicians”.

Unlike some candidates from the national parties, R4U says it is only standing candidates who actually live in the wards/divisions they want to represent as R4U believes only residents can best represent their fellow residents.

Ukip

Ukip says its councillors offer a breathe of fresh air to normal politics, coming from all walks of life – with its elected representatives not taking a party whip.

Among its key policies for local government are campaigning to reduce immigration, and cutting foreign aid to reduce domestic spending cuts.

The party also wants to cut back on high-paid council staff, to protect frontline services.

It is opposed to mass house building, saying infrastructure – particularly roads capacity – must be fixed first, and so-called affordable housing must be truly affordable. Priority for housing would be given to local people and veterans.

Ukip pledges to keep council tax and business rates as low as possible, while protecting services.

In transport, the party wants to restore rural bus routes and increase free parking in town centres in a bid to regenerate them. Pot holes would also be a priority.

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