NYCC Elections: Filey Division Preview
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, contemplating the prospects of the candidates in the Filey Division of the NYCC 2017 Elections.
The incumbent County Councillor for the Filey Division is Scarborough Borough Councillor Sam CROSS [Ukip] who is Group Leader at both Councils, where he declines to claim any expenses. As a long-time local resident and a former Councillor and Mayor of Filey Town Council, Sam CROSS is well-known in the town and readily approachable. When the occasion demands, he can be forthright in his opposition to misconceived proposals.
The only apparent ‘blemish’ on his record that I could find was when his name appeared – mistakenly – on a list of Councillors who had defaulted on Council Tax payments to such degree as to invoke legal action. Councillor CROSS was sent a summons for a property that was not his home and where tenants had run-up arrears without informing him. Councillor CROSS settled the outstanding amount when it was brought to his attention.
Many observers have been surprised by the lack of serious opposition present in the Statement of Persons Nominated – and by the absence of one contender in particular.
Prior to the publication of the nominations, it was widely expected that Sam CROSS’s most dangerous oppponent was likely to be his double-dipping predecessor in the Division, SBC Councillor Mike COCKERILL [Ind.]. However, a series of high-profile PR disasters has dogged COCKERILL in recent times – his infamous racist remarks, his ‘shock’ resignation from Filey Town Council, and his disingenuous public utterances on the subject of the purported presence of asbestos in The Futurist Theatre, to name just a few.
Added to these hindrances, Mike COCKERILL carries the burden of being the SBC Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Project Leadership, Harbours and Coast & Flood Protection – and is therefore one of the eight subjects of the forthcoming NO CONFIDENCE Motion in Leader Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.] and his Cabinet.
In fact, the only source of comfort for COCKERILL must be that he would not, in Filey, be facing the Whitby electorate, by whom he is deeply despised for having utterly failed to secure the future of the Whitby Piers.
Conversely, Sam CROSS’s stock is high at present; Filey Town Council voted 12:1 in favour of a Vote of NO CONFIDENCE in the SBC Leader and Cabinet (which includes COCKERILL), so Sam CROSS’s determination to carry the NO CONFIDENCE bid all the way to the Town Hall is clearly an accurate representation of public feeling in Filey and throughout the Borough.
So it was no big surprise, at least to experienced observers, when the Statement of Persons Nominated was published and did not include the name of closet-Tory Mike COCKERILL [Ind.].
David Edmund KING [Green] would appear to be something of a newcomer to local politics in North Yorkshire. Historically, the Greens have not been able to make an impact in Filey and it is unlikely that Mr KING will achieve election on this occasion.
The remaining candidate is a much more interesting kettle of fish.
Helen Gall SWIERS [Con.] is the incumbent County Councillor for Esk Valley at the very opposite end of the Borough of Scarborough, where she has enjoyed a commanding majority since she was elected there in 2009 – following a stint in the Scalby Division, where she was deselected at that time by the S&WCA (by one vote) in favour of the present incumbent there, County & Borough Councillor Derek BASTIMAN [Con.].
If she is known at all by the people of Filey, it can only be through her appearance in the North Yorks Enquirer, after she was identified by my colleague Tim THORNE seemingly taking personal advantage from her membership of the North York Moors National Park Authority (contingent upon her elected position at NYCC).
“Attending the meeting, but not declaring an interest in the York Potash portion of the meeting, was Cllr Helen Swiers (of recent ‘Private Eye’ notoriety), one of the five North Yorkshire County Council appointed Members of the NYMNPA. Councillor Swiers has substantial land to the south of the National Park and stands to gain a large amount of money in mineral rights from York Potash, should the mine gain planning permission. One wonders why she didn’t declare an interest and leave the meeting at this point.”
Who put the ‘Gall’ in Helen Gall SWIERS, eh?
And what on earth can have brought her to Filey?
Well, insiders tell me that she has now once again been deselected by the S&WCA, this time from her safe seat in the Esk Valley Division, in favour of Councillor Clive PEARSON [Con.] (Danby Ward) – a protegé of former County and Borough Councillor Herbert TINDALL [Con.], who is believed to have been the prime mover machinating in Clive PEARSON’s favour.
Councillor SWIERS has apparently terminally alienated her electorate by failing to support local residents in their bid last year to save the rural bus services. At a rally in Goathland, she arrived late – and when challenged by County Councillor Tony RANDERSON [Lab.] as to what exactly she intended to do for her electors, she could come up with nothing better than, “Me? What can I do?”.
Having listened to hours of audio of NYCC Meetings, I can honestly say that I cannot recall ever having heard Helen SWIERS make any contribution at all to debate at County Hall.
But on the subject of transport, I am able to shed at least a little light on what Councillor SWIERS can do.
Like former-Councillor John BLACKBURN [Con.] (Hertford & Cayton Division), Councillor David JEFFELS [Con.] (who is standing again in the Seamer & Derwent Valley Division) and Councillor Cliff TROTTER [Con.] (who is also standing again, in the Pannal & Lower Wharfdale Division, Harrogate), Councillor SWIERS claimed from North Yorkshire County Council mileage expenses for travelling to and from a Conservative Party junket – not Council business at all. That is not my idea of serving the public.
Fortunately, North Yorks Enquirer editor Tim THORNE (who is standing in the Castle Division) eventually succeeded in dragging the truth out of NYCC with a Freedom of Information request and Internal Review, via the WhatDoTheyKnow.com website: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/travel_repayments_from_cllrs_to#incoming-442939
Outcome? Councillor SWIERS and her fellow spongers were forced to repay the fraudulently claimed mileage expenses.
But SWIERS must be somebody’s blue-eyed baby because she is presently the Deputy Chair at NYCC. It is astonishing how often, in local government, we see disgraceful conduct rewarded – and how seldom (if ever) prosecuted.
Customarily, the Deputy Chair is promoted to the Chair the following year. So clearly a seat had to be found for Helen SWIERS somewhere – anywhere. As it turned out, the originally intended nominee for Filey was found to be encumbered by certain ‘personal difficulties’. So, carpe diem, Helena – as they used to say in Eboracum.
Of course, none of the unsavoury details outlined above will appear on Helen SWIERS’ election leaflets so, inevitably, some will be taken in by the usual platitudes.
Nevertheless, in my view, Filey was a spectacularly poor choice for Helen SWIERS – nothing short of desperate, in fact. The electors of Filey are unlikely to have much use for an ‘immigrant’ self-server from the Tory heartlands, so even the Tory predilection for mopping up the postal votes is unlikely to suffice to return Helen SWIERS to County Hall. I could be wrong, but do not stack your house against me.
My expectation is that the Tory grandees will be scuttling around for an alternative 2017/18 Chair come 5th May. Someone with experience as Deputy Mayor at Borough/District level would be considered eminently suitable. That someone could be Streonshalh Division incumbent, Joe PLANT [Con.] – but first he would need to be re-elected – which, given his record, is by no means a foregone conclusion.
In my view, County & Borough Councillor Sam CROSS [UKIP] can look foreward to retaining his seat.
Let the best candidate win . . .