At the end of June 2010 the High Court ruled that Labour's decision to make Exeter a unitary authority was unlawful. One of the consequences of this was the immediate removal from office of 12 Exeter City Councillors who had had their term of office extended for 12 months from 6th May 2010 until the 'all out' elections for the new unitary council. The by-elections to fill the 13 vacant seats -a Conservative
councilllor took the opportunity to stand down- will be held on 9th September 2010.
These elections are important for two reasons. Firstly, they provide the Conservatives with the first real opportunity to become the largest party on Exeter City Council since 1983. Labour dominated for 25 years until 2008 when, as a result of the 10p tax debacle they lost control to a minority Lib Dem administration. The problems associated with such a lengthy period of one party rule have been coming out into the open recently with the Council having lost £5m of the reserves in the Icelandic bank collapse -an investment decision taken on Labour's watch- and the local museum regeneration project running £5m over budget -most of the causes of the overspend beginning, again, on Labour's watch.
The Lib Dems, have little to show for their period in office beyond dealing rather badly with the financial mess they inherited. Services have been (and are being) cut, council tax has increased and they failed to grasp the problems with the museum overspend, thus causing even more tax payer's money to be spent. More generally, both Labour and the Lib Dems have failed to articulate a vision for Exeter and therein lies the opportunity for the Conservatives.
We aim to restore sound financial management starting with a freeze in council tax and making the efficiency savings which the Labour group oppose and the Lib Dems are too afraid to pursue. We are determined to develop the localism agenda and to learn the lessons which other Conservative councils across the country can teach in terms of getting both value for money and excellent services.
The second reason is that 12 of the 13 by-elections are being held in the Exeter parliamentary constituency with the remaining ward falling into East Devon. Exeter was a marginal target seat the general election. We came close but, sadly, failed to take it from Labour. Given, however, the concentration of by-elections in just one parliamentary seat these elections will provide an indication of the popularity of the coalition and the decisions taken to date.
Locally the coalition has had quite dramatic impact: 2 Lib Dem councillors defected to Labour on the basis that they had not come into politics to support the Conservatives. Although there was much more to it, the fall out was even more startling. The defectors, far from popular with the local Labour Party, were welcomed to the fold by order of Labour's central command. As a result a long standing Labour councillor defected to sit first as an Independent and, having been removed from office by the High Court decision, has since joined the Conservatives. We are delighted to have selected him as one of the Conservative candidates seeking election on 9th September 2010.
So, with less than a month to go until polling day, Exeter Conservatives would be glad to hear from anyone who is willing and able to help with canvassing, delivering and knocking up. If you are able to donate to our fighting fund then we are similarly grateful. Please contact the constituency office on 01395 233-503 and help us to elect a Conservative led council