Labour vanishes from St Albans council but Green's Simon re-elected again
- Credit: St Albans Green Party
The elimination of the district's last two Labour councillors in last week's elections comes approximately 25 years after St Albans welcomed only its second Labour MP in the form of Kerry Pollard.
But the political landscape has drastically changed since May 1997, with the fight for control of SADC seemingly a two-horse race until the Lib Dems wiped out their Tory rivals on Thursday.
Now the remaining Labour councillors are gone, what future does the party have in this area of Hertfordshire?
Iain Grant, chair of St Albans Labour Party and a candidate for Batchwood ward last week, believes their members still have a job to do in holding the Lib Dems accountable for their actions going forwards.
He said: “These were disappointing results for Labour locally. We campaigned hard, in an all-out election which strained resources, ultimately for little reward.
"Our autumn canvassing told us that many residents were unhappy with the quality of service they were getting from our district council, and that they were concerned about how key features of our town, such as the market, were being poorly managed.
"Despite that, it’s also clear that on the doorstep this spring people wanted to send a message to the Conservatives nationally, and the collapse in their vote locally has definitely sent that signal.
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"Moving forward, Labour activists will continue to scrutinise this council’s actions and will press to ensure that it delivers better for our residents. It’s not great, for example, to make a big play of a commitment to social housing and then wring your hands in committee when larger-scale developments fail to provide affordable housing at the 40 per cent level envisaged in the stalled Local Plan. I don’t call that delivering on a promise – however it gets spun in the election literature.
"And at a more basic level, Labour wants to see a council that 'sweats the small stuff' – what’s the point of MyStAlbans district account, for instance, which signally fails to respond for months to things as basic as a replacement bin request or fly-tipping notifications? Labour knows that this council can and should do better. It’s now down to the Lib Dems to deliver, and to us to hold them to it.”
The lone Green shoot in a predominantly orange field, Simon Grover was the only representative of his party to secure a seat, but believes their performance comfortably knocked Labour into fourth place locally.
"We stood a record number of 37 candidates and over 8,000 residents used at least one of their votes to support us. That puts Greens well ahead of Labour as the district’s third party. We were delighted to comfortably retain our seat in St Peter’s ward, and to come within 21 votes of gaining a second councillor in Clarence ward. These results reflected an excellent night for the Greens across the country, gaining 88 seats in England and Wales to now have 545 councillors on 166 councils.
"With a decimated Tory opposition, it’s even more important now for us to hold the Lib Dems to account on St Albans council. Left to their own devices there will be more mistakes like the debacle over the Charter Market. In particular we’ll be pressing them to deliver on Green policies that they have already agreed to, including a home insulation programme, 20mph default speed limits, and protection of trees and green spaces."
Lone Independent Cllr David Mitchell, who is chairman of Redbourn Parish Council, added: "I’m delighted and honoured to be re-elected as a district councillor for Redbourn Ward. I know many residents voted for me because I am a great supporter of the greenbelt and I will do my best to protect the local countryside from extensive and unnecessary development. Being the only Independent on the council will be a challenge but one I am looking forward to."