2017 Frinton by-election

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Event.png 2017 Frinton by-election
Haseldine Walford.jpg
Patrick Haseldine congratulates newly-elected Councillor Pamela Walford

The 2017 Frinton by-election for the seat vacated by Conservative Councillor Mark Brown on Frinton and Walton Town Council (FAWTC) took place on Thursday, 19th January 2017.[1] Conservative Pamela Walford, who was elected with a majority of 340 votes over Labour's Patrick Haseldine, joins three other Councillors from Frinton Ward:

  1. Cllr Terry Allen Tendring First
  2. Cllr Nick Turner Conservative Party
  3. Cllr Mrs Vanda Watling Conservative Party[2]

Postal vote stitch-up

In October 2016, the nine Tendring First councillors and six Tory councillors on F&W Town Council decided on "cost-saving" grounds not to issue polling cards for the upcoming by-elections in Walton and Frinton.

Registered postal voters would of course be sent ballot papers a fortnight before each by-election, and could post their vote to Clacton Town Hall or even have it delivered to the polling station or the Town Hall on the day.

Ordinary voters were not sent polling cards, so would be unaware that the by-election was taking place unless the Frinton & Walton Gazette gave it space on the front page.

Turnout for the Walton by-election on Thursday, 3 November 2016 was a mere 15%. Returning Officer Ian Davidson announced the result as follows:

  • COSSENS Mark Alan, Conservative Party Candidate 211
  • OXLEY Ann Frances, Tendring First 297 (Elected)

It is estimated that postal votes accounted for 80% of the 580 total votes cast in the Walton by-election.[3]

There was no Labour candidate in the Walton by-election because of the incompetence of Sam Atkinson, Executive Committee (EC) Chair of the Clacton Constituency Labour Party (CLP) and the rest of the EC. On Thursday 26 January 2017, Sam Atkinson and the four other EC members (17-year-old Danielle Atkinson, 17-year-old Nicole El-Safty, veteran Dan Casey and Treasurer & acting Secretary Chris Bird were summoned to a meeting at the Clacton CLP offices by East of England Labour Party Chair Eileen Davidson. She warned them that the whole EC would be dismissed if the rank and file CLP members, whom she planned to meet on Friday 3 February 2017 in Clacton, demanded they should go.[4]

Candidates

At close of nominations on 20 December 2016, there were five candidates in the Frinton by-election:[5]

  1. Susan Clutterbuck - Green Party
  2. Richard Everett - Frinton Resident
  3. Patrick Haseldine - Labour Party
  4. Fiona Knowles - Tendring First[6]
  5. Pamela Walford - Conservative Party

Tucked away on page 10 of the Frinton & Walton Gazette of 5 January 2017 was this announcement "5 people in running for council seat":

Five candidates are set to battle it out for a seat on Frinton and Walton Town Council at a by-election which will be held in a fortnight's time.
Susan Clutterbuck is standing for the Green Party, Richard Everett as an Independent, Patrick Haseldine for Labour, Fiona Knowles for Tendring First, and Pamela Walford as a Conservative.
The by-election was triggered after Conservative councillor Mark Brown was "sacked" for not attending meetings for six months of illness.
Town council rules meant the Frinton councillor was forced to stand after he failed to give any reasons for his absence.
Voting in the by-election takes place on Thursday, January 19, from 7am to 10pm.
People will be able to cast their votes at the polling stations at Frinton Free Church, in Connaught Avenue.[7]

Labour win predicted

Pictured on January 14th, Labour candidate Patrick Haseldine and canvassers outside the Oh My Gosh Beauty Salon in Frinton

On 15 January 2017, following a week-end of canvassing by a large contingent of party supporters, Labour was predicted to win an historic victory in the Frinton by-election.[8] The predicted turnout was 2,401 (60% of 3,402 voters in the Frinton ward):

  1. Patrick Haseldine - Labour Party:.........602
  2. Pamela Walford - Conservative Party:.550
  3. Fiona Knowles - Tendring First:............429
  4. Susan Clutterbuck - Green Party:.........283
  5. Richard Everett - Frinton Resident:.......177
Total:... 2,401

Predicted winner Patrick Haseldine commented:

"Of course, I'll be delighted if the results on Thursday confirm this prediction, and will have much more to say after the votes are counted at the Frinton Free Church."[9]

Conservative majority slashed

Declaration of the by-election result by Returning Officer, Ian Davidson

Returning Officer Ian Davidson declared the results at 11:10pm at the Frinton Free Church in Connaught Avenue, where both voting and counting had taken place:[10]

  • CLUTTERBUCK, Susan, Green Party 81
  • EVERETT, Richard Hugh, Frinton-on-Sea Resident 120
  • HASELDINE, Patrick John, The Labour Party Candidate 49
  • KNOWLES, Fiona Ann, Tendring First 141
  • WALFORD, Pamela Kay, Conservative Party Candidate 389 Elected

Mr Davidson asserted that the total of 780 valid votes and a turnout of 23.04% should be considered good for a Town Council election.

The postal vote register contained 640 names, and 370 actually voted by post (58%). Of the remaining 2,762 ordinary voters (3,402 less 640) only 410 went to the Frinton Free Church to vote (15%). The need for polling cards at all local council elections is clearly demonstrated by the pathetic turnout at both the Walton and Frinton by-elections.[11]

Speechless in Frinton

None of the media was present when the result of the Frinton by-election was declared, and Cllr Walford declined to make a speech. Labour candidate Patrick Haseldine was therefore not afforded the opportunity of speaking. His prepared victory speech which, like the Declaration, would have been captured on video and posted to YouTube, reads as follows:

"The voters of Frinton have today responded to my electoral friend request: 'Let’s Be Friends in Frinton'.[12]
"Like the rest of the United Kingdom, Frinton has been needlessly divided after last June’s EU Referendum. A majority voted to Leave, a big minority wanted to Remain and nearly one third Abstained from voting altogether. Scotland and Northern Ireland were Remainers, while England and Wales were Brexiteers. Regions, communities and even families were and are divided. So let’s come together inside the gates, heal our divisions and talk to each other again. Let’s show the rest of the UK outside the gates how to do it!
"Some Frintonians have been quick to challenge me, saying: 'that’s all very well, but what about all the divisions in the Labour Party?'
"My response was that Jeremy Corbyn has been at pains to offer the hand of friendship to his Blairite parliamentary colleagues but they spurned him in 2015 when he was first elected Labour leader, and many continue to do so after Jeremy's re-election as leader with an even greater majority in 2016.
"If these recalcitrant MPs are not prepared to support Jeremy now, then they should step down and cause a by-election – just as happened today in Frinton. The local Constituency Labour Party must then select one of the hundreds of thousands of new members, who are overwhelmingly pro-Corbyn supporters, to replace them. I’m thinking of MPs like Angela Eagle, Owen Smith, Tom Watson, Rachel Reeves (and her brother-in-law John Cryer), John Woodcock, Ruth Smeeth and Wes Streeting. A lot of them belong to Labour Friends of Israel which has a visceral dislike of Corbyn. But it’s no good if the local CLP’s Executive Committee is similarly anti-Corbyn (like Clacton’s current five-member EC: Sam Atkinson, her daughter Danielle Atkinson, Chris Bird, Dan Casey, Nicole El-Safty and her partner Jack Parsons) who then select another Blairite to replace them.[13] In such a case, the whole Executive Committee should resign immediately and hand over to the new pro-Corbyn membership.
"So let’s heal the divides and be friends in Frinton. Let’s unite inside and outside the gates of Frinton. Let unity break out in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, and we’ll have a Labour government in Next to No Time!"

Abusive telephone messages

Haseldine's campaign literature comprised a post-Brexit leaflet entitled "Let's Be Friends in Frinton" and a "Dear Frinton Resident" letter which focused on the possible sale of the allotments in Witton Wood Lane. The letter gave his home telephone number and two voters left messages on the answerphone to say they would vote for him.[14] A further two calls came from the Chair of Clacton CLP, Sam Atkinson, and eight abusive messages were left by the vice-Chair Nicole El-Safty, angry that she had been excluded from campaigning in the 2017 Frinton by-election.[15]

Frinton's "iconic gates"

Frinton's old manually operated gates were replaced with automatic ones in 2009

In 2009 Rachel Baldwin, of the Frinton and Walton Heritage Trust (FWHT), described the railway crossing gates as effectively marking the entrance to the town, and dividing Frinton from the rest of the world:

"The gates are iconic. Frinton's had gates for virtually as long as it's been a town.
"Frinton is effectively a triangular town and is bordered on three sides by the sea, the railway line and the marshes.
"So going through the gates is the main way to get into Frinton. The whole town revolves around trains."

Mrs Baldwin added as a result, an "inside the gates, outside the gates" attitude had developed.[16]

EU Referendum in microcosm

Frinton's 3,402 voters are a microcosm

The 3,402 electors in Frinton and Walton Town Council’s Frinton ward are a microcosm of the 46.5 million voters in the UK political system. In last June’s unnecessary and divisive EU Referendum – the result of a weak Conservative government and bullying by the UK Independence Party – the United Kingdom was split asunder: Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to Remain; England and Wales voted for Brexit.[17]

Although 28% abstained from voting, communities, families and friends who did vote became divided: the young overwhelmingly wanting to Remain while the old tended towards Leave.[18] Tory donor Lord Ashcroft produced a table of “How Britain Voted”, which showed an overall 48% vote to Remain and 52% to Leave.

There are no reliable figures on how the 3,402 Frinton voters actually cast their votes, but based on Lord Ashcroft’s statistics, there would have been 952 Abstentions in Frinton ward, 1,274 votes to Leave and 1,176 votes to Remain. Thus, if only fifty Frinton voters had voted differently, there might have been a majority for Remain, but the division between the two camps would still be there.[19]

Message from Jeremy Corbyn

Labour's Patrick Haseldine at the Witton Wood Lane allotments on Christmas Day 2016

On 22 December 2016, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn addressed a Christmas message to each Labour Party member, including Frinton by-election candidate Patrick Haseldine, which concluded:

"Brexit is a huge challenge for our country. We have to heal the divides in our country — and speak for both those who voted Leave and Remain, to stop the Tory vision for Brexit — of a country where workers are easier to exploit and taxes easier to avoid. We will not obstruct the democratic decision to Leave, but we will oppose policies that harm our people.
"It is our party, our movement, that will unite people to change Britain for the better, and give us the chance to bring more humanity and peace to a troubled world.
"Let us work together — and enjoy the common endeavour we are embarked on.
"Thank you for all that you do for our party, and I hope you have the opportunity to spend some time with loved ones over the Christmas period."
Jeremy Corbyn

FAWTC responsibilities

Frinton and Walton Town Council (FAWTC) has a major leisure facility, the Columbine Centre at Princes Esplanade, Walton-on-the-Naze, which is licensed for Civil Ceremonies. FAWTC maintains three allotment sites. All are productive, well maintained and sociable.

FAWTC comments on all planning applications affecting the Town. Its other responsibilities include tree planting, bus shelters, seafront shelters, village greens and commons, play areas, a skateboard park, the Town Hard and public seats.[20]

PCSOs

In 2004 FAWTC, in partnership with Essex Police, saw the recruitment of six Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) with a further two recruited in 2006. Following the election of the Police and Crime Commissioner and reorganisations within the Police Authority, PCSO part-funding was withdrawn. The Town Council made the decision to fully fund six PCSOs w.e.f. April 2015 in order to continue with the good work they had done in this area. It is hoped that they will continue to have a significant impact on nuisance, crime and disorder to help keep crime low in our towns and villages.[21]

Financing local organisations

The Town Council gives financial assistance to many local organisations each year. For further information please telephone: (01255) 676666.

2016/17 precept

FAWTC precept in 2016/17 is £387,895 (also in receipt of £43,293 Local Council Tax Support scheme grant from Tendring District Council) and the effect on an average Band D Council tax bill is £52.39.[22]

Fire Service "cuts"

Fire Service "cuts": only one fire engine is to remain at Frinton, despite the £200,000 "profit"

On 21 October 2016, the Daily Gazette reported that Essex County Fire and Rescue Service was making a £200,000 “profit” every year in delivering a service to Frinton and Walton it was planning to reduce. Figures released by the service to FAWTC revealed that Frinton & Walton paid £501,000 a year in Council Tax for its fire service, which in turn cost just £300,000 to deliver.

The admission stemmed from a letter FAWTC sent to acting chief executive and acting chief fire officer Adam Eckley following a recent meeting he held with Town Councillors on the planned removal of one of Frinton’s two fire engines. Town Clerk Myrna Liles wrote:

“I am sorry that it ended so abruptly but the strong feelings of our members has been fed up from our residents and I believe they all feel really frustrated that our service is diminishing and we are unable to do anything about it.”

Mrs Liles further told Essex Fire and Rescue residents and councillors felt “out on a limb” and she sought reassurance they wouldn’t suffer from “this ill informed decision” to remove the fire engine. She also asked how much it cost to provide the service from Frinton, saying residents should not have to pay for improvements elsewhere if their own service was being cut.

Adam Eckley replied that despite Frinton’s impending loss of one engine, there would be “no change to the resources mobilised to incidents” in Frinton and Walton as residents would have access to services from elsewhere. Mr Eckley confirmed Frinton and Walton residents pay £501,000 of Council Tax to the fire authority, while “we estimate the current cost of providing and supporting the fire station in Frinton is around £300,000 per annum.”[23]


References

  1. "Date set for Frinton by-election"
  2. "Your Council"
  3. "Results of By-Election for Walton seat on Frinton and Walton Town Council"
  4. "Labour Regional Chair puts Clacton CLP Executive Committee on notice"
  5. "Candidates for the Frinton by-election"
  6. "Fiona Knowles on Facebook"
  7. Frinton & Walton Gazette "5 people in running for council seat", 5 January 2017, page 10
  8. "Dear Frinton Resident"
  9. "Frinton by-election: Labour win predicted"
  10. "Video of the Declaration"
  11. "Frinton by-election: Declaration of Result"
  12. "Let's Be Friends in Frinton"
  13. "NOW CLACTON #LABOUR ‘SUSPENDED’ FOR SUPPORTING #CORBYN"'
  14. "'Dear Frinton Resident' letter"
  15. "2017 Frinton by-election abusive messages from Nicole El-Safty"
  16. "Frinton-on-Sea old railway crossing gates get new home"
  17. "EU referendum: The result in maps and charts"
  18. "EU Referendum: only 28% abstained!"
  19. "How the United Kingdom voted on Thursday - and why"
  20. "F&WTC has a population of 19,039 some 9055 households"
  21. "Paul Brassey, Police Community Support Officer for Kirby Cross, Frinton and Walton"
  22. "Local Council Tax Support is a reduction of your Council Tax bill"
  23. Essex fire makes £200,000 'profit' on Frinton and Walton service it plans to cut"
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