POLITICIANS in the New Forest have kicked off their campaigns for the local elections on 2nd May.
When voters go to the polls in just over a month they will choose who represents them on the district as well as town and parish councils.
The Conservatives are defending a huge majority on the 60-seat New Forest District Council where they currently have 56 members against two Liberal Democrats and one Independent. One seat is unfilled after the death of Cllr Brian Lucas last year.
The Tories also control the bigger town councils including Lymington and Pennington, New Milton, Ringwood, and Totton and Eling. Parish councils are usually non-political.
The party’s local manifesto pledged to build 100 extra council houses over the next four years, and invest in a mobile CCTV security system.
It also promised to support local business, keep council tax “as low as possible”, maintain frontline services and work with local partners to keep the streets “safe and clean”.
Tory leader Cllr Barry Rickman told the A&T his party would be campaigning on a record of “sound financial management” – but admitted its chances might be harmed by the turbulence in Westminster caused by the Brexit negotiations.
“I think it may have an effect and I am sorry about that because our councillors have worked hard for the communities of the New Forest,” he said.
“We have balanced the book for the next four years and not many councils can say that. It’s important for me because it gives our staff a sound base.”
The opposition New Forest Liberal Democrats launched their 12-point manifesto outside the former police station in Jones Lane, Hythe – where retirement developer McCarthy and Stone has launched an appeal to build 35 flats.
Lib Dem leader Cllr David Harrison said: “We decided not to launch our manifesto in some remote posh hotel, but to do it in the heart of a community at a location which inspires thought and discussion about community safety issues and housing provision.”
The Lib Dems’ policies include boosting the police, limiting council tax rises to inflation, cutting the number of district councillors by 15, and opposing any attempt by ABP to develop Dibden Bay.
They also want discounted bus travel for younger people, improved recycling rates, a new country park in the district, more affordable homes, and an expansion of the off-road cycle network.
Labour kicked off its election campaign in the New Forest on Saturday morning with protests against the “privatisation” of the district’s five public leisure centres, which the Conservative administration wants managed by an outside organisation to save money.
Party activists demonstrated outside the centres in Lymington, New Milton, Ringwood, Applemore and Totton.
Nominations for district and town/parish elections must be submitted by hand to NFDC, which is running the poll, by 4pm on Wednesday 3rd April.
Voters not on the electoral roll have until Friday 12th April to make sure they are added. The deadline for postal vote applications is 5pm on Monday 15th April and for proxy votes it is 5pm on Wednesday 24th April.
To find out more go to www.newforest.gov.uk/electoralservices.
IN CHRISTCHURCH, Labour was first out of the traps to be the only party with a public launch of its local election campaign.
The poll will be the first for the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council, which will come into existence on Monday after the controversial merger of the three previously separate authorities.
Labour launched its local manifesto, which the party said had been compiled from data collected from months of knocking on doors and talking with local residents.
The candidates are: Christchurch Town: Bob Hope and David Munnik; Commons: Pete Stokes and Antoinette Pearce; Burton & Grange: Claire Wade and Andrew Dunne; Mudeford, Stanpit and West Highcliffe: Jill Hope and Will Deans; Highcliffe and Walkford: Kathryn Boniface and Roger Boniface.