Herts Ad Comment: Election costs and Harpenden Town Council tight-lipped over travellers

PUBLISHED: 16:32 13 May 2016 | UPDATED: 16:32 13 May 2016

This week's editor's comment...

This week's editor's comment...


It has always been a bit of a mystery to many St Albans voters why one-third of the district council is up for re-election three years out of every four.

After all, elections don’t come cheap with obvious costs such as the manning of polling stations and paying for the counters of both postal votes and those cast on the day to consider.

That is without the hidden costs of council officer time and time off in lieu of the election which often go unheeded.

Last week’s local election resulted in such a tiny change in the constitution of the council that it was enough to make all those concerns raise their heads again.

The Tories won a seat back from an Independent who had previously been Conservative and the Lib Dems stopped what could have been a slide because of the impact of the Coalition by gaining a seat in Ashley, a ward that swings between the parties.

Even council leader, Cllr Julian Daly, had to admit that at the end of a long day - and night - the results had made little difference but would give his party a bit more room to manouevre.

What was clear was that there was a palpable lack of passion or drama on the night - even though two wards had several recounts and the final results in both were very close - and one can’t help but think it might be worth a fresh look at the election strategy with a view to returning St Albans to the whole council being up for re-election every four years.

At least last Thursday was of benefit in one area - it helped push up the turnout for the Herts Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Elections. People coming out to vote for their St Albans councillors notched up a 39.4 per cent vote for the PCC at the same time.

Otherwise the turnout would have been even lower than the 29 per cent who voted across the county.

You would think that Harpenden Town Council would want to reassure residents about what action they were taking after a group of travellers arrived on the Common earlier this week.

But instead of using the opportunity presented by the Herts Advertiser to explain how they were acting to protect this designated wildlife site, the outgoing town clerk was keeping tight-lipped over the situation.

This sort of response tends to add fuel to the fire when it comes to controversial issues of this nature, and ends up with hearsay and rumour taking precedence over fact and procedure.

Working alongside a trusted media source is the perfect way of informing and advising as many people as possible, instead of leaving them to speculate on social media.

From July a new town clerk will be in situ in Harpenden, and we would urge him to usher in a new era of transparency and cooperation between the traditionally guarded town council and local media.

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Recently we, as a family (minus two of the kids), visited The Lodge RSPB reserve in Sandy, Bedfordshire. I had never been before, which is perhaps amiss of me as a birdwatcher as it is the headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds or RSPB and only 45 minutes drive from home.

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