Cllr Dan Pegg represents Linton Ward on South Derbyshire District Council.
Having been the Chair and now Vice Chair of Linton Parish Council, I was approached late one Sunday afternoon in August, by Cllr Pat Murray, regarding the position of district councillor for the Linton Ward.
While working on the Parish Council I had struck up a friendship with Cllr Bob Wheeler and used to see him at our meetings every month. He was a brilliant character and very professional and was always there to help. Bob let the Parish know that he was poorly and that he might not be around as much. A few weeks later I heard that Bob had passed away and I sent an email to Heather Wheeler MP to let her know how much her husband was respected and will be missed personally and by the Parish. The rest is a bit of a blur. Mrs. Wheeler asked who I was and Cllr Murray informed her that I would be a good candidate to take over where Bob had, so sadly, left off.
When Cllr Murray offered me the chance to become the next district councillor for the Linton Ward I jumped at the chance. This would be a huge step up for me but I felt that I was ready for that transition. My original background career-wise was retail management so I know I have the multi-tasking and people skills required for a position like this. Campaigning though was a whole new thing for me. After being cleared through the selection panel and by the Vice Chairman of South Derbyshire District Council, the real hard work began. Linton is a tough ward which is made up of eight villages and other local areas.
The last election was a close affair with Conservatives only winning by 19 votes and after a recount. I was introduced to Charlie Simpson, who would become my Campaign Manager and to assistant Campaign Manager, Aden-Lee Hallam. We had six weeks to fully campaign across the ward before the election and this was the first time I had even taken part in something of this scale. Charlie and Aden are the most amazing team that anybody could ask for. From day one we started surveying and making sure all the postal votes were in place.
The surveying went on for days and then after that we started to canvass the ward. We needed to gather as much information as possible to know the best tactics to apply so that we could beat the opposition – in this case Labour and the Lib Dems. The canvassing was very hard work. Hours at a time by groups of people sent out across the ward. I have never done so much walking in six weeks.
In between the canvassing and knocking on doors, we also had leaflet drops and letter drops. We sent out two flyers across the ward which were all delivered by hand. I made myself visible and approachable at all times and listened to a large variety of issues from constituents. Heather Wheeler and other councillors came out to help at weekends, as well as supporters and other volunteers. It was a huge operation but very well managed from the word go. When the day finally arrived of the by-election, I was anxious and tired. Everybody had put in so much effort; I was hoping that it all wasn’t going to be a waste of time and I wasn’t going to have to wait until May to try again. The Labour candidate was well known, respected, and a former councillor already. I knew it would be a close call. Myself, my wife Alexa, Charlie and Aden arrived at the count.
By 10.30pm the other boxes from the polling stations had arrived and the count had begun. After a short while, things were looking good and the Conservative pile was growing by the second. Postal votes were then counted and added – our pile grew larger. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Charlie and Aden started to smile as the opposition was slowly left behind and it started to sink in that all the hard work had paid off. By about 11.30pm the counting was completed and the result was declared. The turn-out had been low as expected, only 22.5 per cent across the ward, but our result was brilliant. We polled 63 per cent of the vote and had a majority of 307.
They key to the win was teamwork and management. Without Campaign Managers like Charlie and Aden this would not have been possible. If you add in all the support from other councillors and friends from near and afar and also the support from your local MP, it really does help things to come together when it gets to that final push over the finish line. I just want to thank everybody that has made it possible for me to become Linton Ward’s new District Councillor. I look forward to all the hard work that awaits me! It is an honour to be able to step into the shoes of the late Cllr Bob Wheeler and to carry on the fantastic work he did, in his legacy.