Cllr Patrick Harley is the Leader of Dudley Council.
Last year we took control of Dudley Council with a confidence and supply arrangement with UKIP. From the start I intended the arrangement to be purely a Conservative administration and that was made clear from the start.
Our objectives were clear: to promote a confident and good feeling about the borough from day one. This resulted in Marcoms releasing many positive news stories about policy announcements and other generally good news stories.
The centrepiece of the municipal year was the introduction of two hours free car parking on all council owned car parks, £4m ploughed back into frontline services, retention of weekly bin collections, and a commitment to retain three leisure centres which the previous administration had floundered over.
The local election campaign was started with a Conservative Group publication (eight page magazine) highlighting the successful 12 months we had enjoyed. This was delivered prior to election expenses kicking in.
What followed was a six week campaign that involved a carefully targeted strategy of ensuring Conservative supporters received pledge letters, postal vote letters and in the run up to polling we used pledge to vote cards which saw a hefty hike in turn out among Conservative support.
The campaign was kept strictly to local issues and our 12 month record of achievement featured very heavily throughout all literature and campaigning. That contrasted well with Labour`s campaign which seemed to centre around national issues and austerity. That backfired as Dudley under our control didn’t cut a single penny from both adult and children’s social care budgets. In fact over the last 12 months we carefully aimed to make sure the opposition had very few targets to aim at and that gave an impression of a new confident administration that knew which direction it wished to go in.
To have control after May 3rd we needed to hold eight seats and gain six. These were five from UKIP and one from Labour. We knew Labour would gain a seat from UKIP so we couldn’t fail on the eight holds and certainly could not afford to miss out on any of the six.
It became apparent early on at the count that we had held all our seats and were on course for the majority of the six. The last one required was finally declared with a majority of just 32. This along with the defection of the sole remaining West Midlands UKIP councillor gave us a majority.
Now as we look forward to next year’s campaign we have key priorities for our borough. Last year’s eye catching policy was free car parking. This year we will invest heavily in our roads budget. People need to see a council that actually delivers what they campaign on. Roads and car parking charges are two areas that residents can associate with every day. Make sure they see that difference and where their council tax is being proactively spent . With a good campaign the reward should be there.