Tuesday 17th October 2017,
North Yorks Enquirer

NYCC Elections: Whitby/Streonshalh Division Preview

NYCC Elections: Whitby/Streonshalh Division Preview

  • an “In My View” report by NIGEL WARD, reviewing the candidates for the Whitby/Streonshalh Division of the North Yorkshire County Council Elections on 4th May 2017.

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[Opinion]

The incumbent County Councillor for Whitby/Streonshalh is Councillor Joe PLANT [Con.], who also serves as the Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning & Transformation at Scarborough Borough Council – at the unfortunate and disadvantageous time when not only Whitby and Filey Town Councils have carried a Vote of NO CONFIDENCE in fellow Conservative SBC Leader Derek BASTIMAN and his entire Cabinet, but also when Scarborough Borough Council is awaiting the date for a similar Motion.

To add to PLANT’s woes, Streonshalh electors remember only too well his close involvement in both the scandalous “Me Too!” Voucher scam and the double-dipping scandal, on which subject PLANT promised the Whitby Gazette (four-and-a-half years ago on 26th October 2012) that he would be making a “frank and honest statement” – a promise he has (significantly) failed to keep.

The effect of these two scandals was to reduce PLANT’s 2009 majority of 364 votes to a precarious 67 votes in 2013.

Apropos the Whitby Piers, PLANT then grabbed a photo-opportunity with the Whitby Gazette, claiming:

“It was a lot of time and hard work, but I am pleased to say £4.8m is the right result. The repairs are a really long time coming and finally we can say the work is being put in.”

“Finally”, eh? We are still waiting.

In the prelude to the 2015 SBC elections, Joe PLANT recruited the assistance of Scarborough & Whitby MP Robert GOODWILL [Con.] in an effort to persuade electors that he had almost single-handedly negotiated the salvation of the Whitby Piers. Alas, this was mere electioneering; no substantive work on the Piers followed and they remain in a tragically neglected state to this day.

This time around, PLANT and Mayfield-cum-Mulgrave Division County Councillor David CHANCE [Con.] have roped in NYCC Leader Carl LES [Con.] for another electioneering photo-opportunity in support of the same open-ended claim.

Joe PLANT will be relieved that the SBC Vote of No Confidence has been unconstitutionally shunted beyon election day, thus sparing him (and his fellow Cabinet Portfolio Holders) the inevitable bad publicity of a defeat or a less than convincing victory.

In 2009 and 2013, Joe PLANT’s main competitors (respectively, Graham PEIRSON [LibDem.] and Diana JEUDA [Lab.] had been almost invisible up until the run-up to the elections.

Now that Joe PLANT is confronted by hard-working SBC ward Councillor Rob BARNETT [Lab.], that slender majority of 67 looks desperately vulnerable. PLANT’s previous life-experience (pumping petrol and wiping windshields) has left him hopelessly ill-prepared for local government service at Borough or County level and his inability to drive any worthwhile initiative is catching up with him. Even with the benefit of a mooted Tory landslide in the forthcoming General Election on 8th June 2017, Whitby’s disenchantment with Joe PLANT may see him struggle to retain his seat.

Rob BARNETT [Lab.], on the other hand, has forty years of experience in the teaching profession in the East end of the capital, where he led a number of successful community projects and served as a union representative throughout much of his teaching career. He will not be able to secure the Piers – but he can be counted upon to tell the truth about what is really happening. His party may be divided but his commitment to ordinary people is unshakeable. From an impoverished childhood, Rob BARNETT succeeded in becoming an Oxford graduate (politics and economics) but never lost sight of his working-class roots and is very much the people’s Councillor, spending most days out on the doorsteps of his ward (and not just at election time), helping out with social housing issues, campaigning to save our libraries and rural bus services and supporting local community initiatives like the Whitby Boxing Club and the struggle to secure Eskdale School. He is a doer, not a chest-thumper. He has the enviable distinction of having declined to accept an award from a buffoon – Boris JOHNSON [Con.], the then Lord Mayor of London.

Most importantly, SBC Councillor Rob BARNETT [Lab.] – unlike Joe PLANT – excels in the principle qualities prerequisite for good democratic representation; he has plenty of credit in what I call the CITI-bank of democracy:

  • Compassion
  • Integrity
  • Talent
  • Intellect

Give me a man of principle over a man of self-interest every time, regardless of party affiliation. Streonshalh is my home ward and Rob BARNETT [Lab.] gets my vote on every bullet-point – not because he is the Labour candidate, but because he is a genuine candidate – with a real prospect of victory.

The field is made up by Jonathan Graham HARSTON [LibDem.] – a recent addition to Whitby Town Council who handed me a leaflet, outside of my own front door, without making any attempt to stick around and engage with me – and Scarborough’s Deirdre Maureen ABBOTT [UKIP], who came fourth in the Falsgrave ward of the 2015 Scarborough Borough Council elections (with a respectable 477 votes), and whose prospects seem the better of the two.

In my view, though, neither of these appeals as a likely winner, though both could take votes away from the Conservative. I thank them for that.

May the best candidate win . . .

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