THE Conservatives are the only party able to win a full majority on New Forest District Council at the local elections in May after they emerged as the sole group running candidates for more than half the seats.
When nominations were revealed for the 60 spaces up for grabs on 2nd May, the Liberal Democrats, who are defending two seats, mustered 28 candidates.
Labour have 30 runners, despite not having a single seat on the district council which is currently dominated by the Tories’ 56 councillors.
The first win has already gone to the Tories before any votes have even been cast, with Cllr Diane Andrews, an NFDC cabinet member, elected unopposed in the Bramshaw, Copythorne North and Minstead ward.
Cllr Barry Rickman, the Tory leader, said: “We have been working for a couple of years to get candidates to fight every seat and we have some great new talent on board.”
Asked how the numbers might affect support for his party, he said: “I do not take anything as read. It needs people to turn out. Equally, if they think we’re doing rubbish, go out and vote for someone else.”
This year UKIP are fielding only two candidates, compared to 28 in the last district elections of 2015. The Green Party has five candidates and there are five Independents.
In 2015 the Lib Dems had four fewer nominations, and the local party’s leader Cllr David Harrison said: “I am really pleased that the Liberal Democrats have once again fielded a large number of candidates across the New Forest.
“We are standing in wards where we have a real chance of winning, unlike other political parties that have no track record of ever getting elected anywhere in the New Forest.
“With the quality of the candidates we have, I am fully expecting to see a big increase in the Liberal Democrat presence and influence in the council chamber.”
John Haywood, secretary for New Forest West Labour, said in its half of the district the group had a record 22 candidates, with at least one in every ward. In 2015 across the district as a whole Labour had 26 candidates.
Mr Haywood said: “Voters should think very carefully when placing their vote. A proper opposition would fight for our leisure centres, our buses, our houses and our environment.
“We all have a chance to put a proper opposition on the council on May 2nd, and the only opposition to the Tories here is Labour.”
Contests to watch include Chris Harrison, a former Lib Dem who is now standing for the Tories in the two-seat Dibden and Hythe East ward. Also running there are Sandra Delemare (Lib Dem), Philip Dowd (Lib Dem) and Dan Poole (Conservative).
Another defector is Matt Kangarani who, as reported in the A&T, quit the Tories last year to join the Lib Dems. He is fighting in Totton East alongside Alexander Brunsdon (Lib Dem), Ian Coombes (Conservative), Chris Lagdon (Independent) and Maurice Penny (Conservative).
In the elections for the New Forest’s 37 town and parish councils, only 12 – less than a third – will be contested in any way. The other 25 did not attract enough people standing to require a ballot.
There will be votes in at least one ward for the town councils of Lymington and Pennington, New Milton, Ringwood, Totton, and Fordingbridge, as well as the parishes of Milford, Fawley, Hythe and Dibden, Minstead, Copythorne, Hale, and Whitsbury.
The deadline for people who are not on the electoral register to add their names with NFDC is midnight tonight (Friday). Voters whose correct details are already recorded do not need to re-register.
To register online go to gov.uk/register-to-vote with National Insurance number and date of birth, or call NFDC’s electoral registration office on 023 8028 5445
Applications to NFDC for postal ballots must be received by Monday at 5pm and for proxy votes by Wednesday 24th April at 5pm.