FORMER Conservative colleagues on Christchurch council will battle it out at the first election of a newly formed super authority that caused a bitter split in the party.
A group of Tories have switched to become Independents in the poll for seats on the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (BCP) election on 2nd May.
As well as being up against Conservative candidates they will vie with Liberal Democrat and Labour hopefuls for two seats in each of the five local BCP wards, and the Green Party in two wards.
There will also be elections for the newly formed Highcliffe & Walkford Neighbourhood Council and Christchurch Town Council.
However, there will be no election for Burton and Winkton or Hurn parish councils, or the west Highcliffe or north Highcliffe and Walkford ward on Highcliffe and Walkford Neighbourhood Council as not enough people put themselves forward for a ballot to be required.
The rivalry between the independents and Conservatives at the elections is the most intriguing aspect as it will pit former senior members of Christchurch Borough Council who sat together as Tories against one another.
The Independents who turned their back on the Tories did so because they were upset at central government for forcing the borough into the new BCP unitary authority.
Chief among the concerns of the breakaway few – which included ex-Christchurch mayors David Flagg and Nick Geary – was the impression the town will have little influence because there will only be 10 Christchurch seats out of the 76 available on the BCP.
Independent candidate Paul Hilliard said: “This means that Christchurch will potentially always be in the minority, so it needs a strong local Independent voice. We will not be controlled by the Bournemouth Conservative Party or any other party whip.”
After some Tories declared to fight the election as Independent they were suspended from the Conservative Party Central Office.
Among those was former borough leader David Flagg, who will battle for the BCP Burton & Grange ward with fellow independent Simon McCormack against Tories Wendy Grace and Brian Case.
Also standing are Robert Dawson (Lib Dem), Andrew Dunne (Labour), Benjamin Pantling (Green), Clare Wade (Labour) and Frederick Worthy (Lib Dem).
Another keenly fought ward will be Mudeford, Stanpit & West Highcliffe where Conservative heavy hitters Ray Nottage and Claire Bath will vie with Independents Paul Hilliard and Lesley Dedman – both of whom were formerly Tories. Also standing are Fiona Cox (Lib Dem), William Deans (Labour), Keith Harrison (Lib Dem) and Gillian Hope (Labour).
Veteran Independent Colin Bungey will fight for the Commons BCP seat alongside ex-Tory Margaret Phipps and the pair will take on Conservatives Lisle Smith and Victoria Hallam.
Jim Biggin (unspecified), Carol Gardiner (Lib Dem), Antoinette Pearce (Labour), Peter Stokes (Labour) and Fenella Vick (Lib Dem) will also vie for a seat.
Nick Geary and fellow Independent Nigel Brooks are standing in the Highcliffe & Walkford ward against Tory pair Colin and Trish Jamieson. Also competing are Kathryn Boniface (Labour), Roger Boniface (Labour), Lily Cox (Lib Dem) and Lucy Harris (Lib Dem).
The BCP election for the Christchurch Town Ward will see Independents Fred Neale and Lindy Stuart-Clark up against Tories Peter Watson-Lee and Peter Hall as well as Mike Cox (Lib Dem), Steve Docherty (Green), Robert Hope (Labour), David Munnik (Labour) and Michael Tarling (Lib Dem).
Notably some veteran Conservatives who were mainstays of the former Christchurch Borough Council are not standing for the party at all, among them John Lofts.
Town and neighbourhood councils
Seats on five wards of Christchurch Town Council are up for grabs on the same night.
Well-known Tory, David Jones, is standing as an independent for the Christchurch Town Council Grange ward after he was one of those suspended by the party recently. He will fight for the seat against Janet Abbott (Ind), Simon McCormack (Ind) and Frederick Worthy (Lib Dem).
The most populated battle is in the Priory Ward, between candidates representing the traditional parties and others who are campaigning on a single issue or under a broad banner.
Christopher Van Hagen is promoting keeping parking in the town at £1 for two hours, while Wendy Grace and Stuart Tizzard have the slogan of ‘Keeping Christchurch Special’ and Trish Hansen ‘Fresh Ideas for a Positive Future’.
Also battling it out in the ward are Sun Bungey (Ind), Avril Coulton (Ind), Mike Cox (Lib Dem), Christopher Guest (Ind), Peter Hall (unspecified), Tom Lane (Ind), Michael Tarling (Lib Dem) and Lindsay Turner (unspecified).
There will also be a fierce battle in the Jumpers and St Catherine’s Ward between nine people, including Ray Thomas – the only UKIP candidate listed in the local ballots.
Colin Bungey (Ind), Fiona Cox (Lib Dem), Sue Fotheringham (unspecified), Travis Fox (unspecified), Carol Gardner (Lib Dem), Fred Neale (Ind), Sue Spittle (unspecified) and Fenella Vick (Lib Dem) will also fight for the seat.
The Friars Cliff ward will be contested by Claire Bath (unspecified), Lesley Dedman (Ind), Paul Hilliard (unspecified) and Rob Ward (unspecified) and the Mudeford & Stanpit ward by Bernie Davis (unspecified), Keith Harrison (Lib Dem), Gillian Jarvis (Ind) and Grace Polson (Ind).
The Highcliffe ward on Highcliffe & Walkford Neighbourhood Council will also be decided, with Bob Hutchings as Zig-Zag Path Fighter against Nigel Brooks (Ind), Tina Butcher (Ind), Francesca Charlesworth (Ind) and former Bournemouth Daily Echo editor Andy Martin (Ind).