Cllr Terri Reid is the Deputy Leader of Basingstoke and Deane Council.
Conservatives took control of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council on May 7th following a year of operating a minority administration. We increased our council seats from 29 to 32 and now have a majority of four. Across the Borough we polled 36,143 votes as opposed to 31,809 from Labour, Liberals, UKIP and Independents combined.
We made the choice at the beginning to run with positive messages only. We had a very good story to tell on the Borough – a recent survey of residents demonstrated record satisfaction levels with services and delivery.
We also faced a negative campaign strategy from our main opponents, Labour, who clearly saw the opportunity to link their parliamentary campaign to their Borough Council campaign with their Shadow Deputy Leader standing as their candidate to face Maria Miller MP. Their likely tone was evident from their position over the past year in Council. Locally, as at a national level, Labour had clearly staked their hopes on a core vote strategy.
Our plan was to fight on the basis of our positive achievements on the Borough. Unemployment at a remarkable low, new businesses and facilities coming into the Borough, record levels of investment attracted to deliver new jobs, roads and homes. Our core message was to appeal to the aspirations of our residents and voters. Basingstoke is a prosperous and growing area and we concentrated on popular improvements already on the way, such as the imminent arrival of a new flagship John Lewis and Waitrose store, and the work yet to come in delivering further regeneration and jobs. Every piece of paper we put out for both the parliamentary and the council election carried this core message of “more jobs, lower taxes, better services”.
This meant, of course, that all literature for the council campaign strengthened the parliamentary campaign, and vice versa. We also made sure to feature several of our key local council candidates in the parliamentary leaflets.
We further reflected this positivity in our choice of candidates to fight crucial council seats. We introduced some dynamic, new, younger potential councillors. The payback for us was that they fought the campaign with energy and enthusiasm and gave a huge time commitment to their wards, leafletting and canvassing thousands of voters with very little support needed from the central campaign in Basingstoke. This in turn meant that we were able to spread our resources further and throw effort more widely across several seats.
As with any political campaign, directing limited resources is a priority and the new candidates freed us up to concentrate not just on defending several crucial marginals but targeting and winning seats that the opposition did not expect us to gain.
We now have a majority comfortable enough to enable us to plan ahead with far more confidence than before the election. Future plans include further regeneration of Basing View, our major business district, and of the Top of Town, the old High Street area at the heart of Basingstoke.
We have major infrastructure work to bring on stream to facilitate the housing growth within the Local Plan, and we are looking at ways of shaping new and innovative methods of delivery for services such as Supporting People as Government funding reduces and Local Government responsibilities evolve.
We can continue to build on our positive programme for Basingstoke and Deane with a view to delivering better outcomes for all our residents and encouraging aspiration and ambition for everyone. We are hopeful of increasing our majority further at the next elections.