Thank you to all those who elected us on May 4, when we won all six East Hampshire District Council seats that cover Whitehill, Bordon and Lindford – writes Andy Tree, leader of the Whitehill & Bordon Community Party.
We found ourselves in a position of huge responsibility in a hung council, where we now hold the balance of power with our six seats out of 43. The largest party are Conservatives with 19 and Lib Dems came second with 14.
We have negotiated a better way forward: an East Hampshire District Council with us leading locally and Whitehill, Bordon, Lindford and Greatham being at the heart of its policy.
Having quite literally spent every day working on this – as my wife would confirm! – our group have now agreed and concluded a special arrangement with Conservatives as the largest party moving forward.
What is most exciting of all is the negotiated policy announcements that will follow in the coming weeks. Look out for them and we will be judged by what we actually achieve for residents, within the context of what EHDC has the power to do.
What became clear is fellow residents voted for us and not Conservatives or Lib Dems and so many wanted neither of them to have power over Whitehill, Bordon, Lindford and Greatham at EHDC.
This has given me a huge challenge as to how to ensure voter choice is respected but facing the reality that we hold only six seats out of 43 and need support from others to get what we want, with the Conservatives holding the most seats.
It’s also difficult when councillors from other parts of East Hampshire, from all the parties, have their own agenda for their own area!
We are a localist grassroots party that puts our community first and is fighting for a fair share of EHDC resources for Whitehill, Bordon, Lindford and Greatham.
Frankly, the Conservatives do not deserve to rule unchallenged but it is also a fantasy to think the Alton-centric Lib Dems are the answer to all our problems either.
A standard coalition where we would have to side with Conservatives or Lib Dems on every decision and be a ‘poodle’ like Lib Dems were to Conservatives at national level between 2010-15 was ultimately not acceptable to us, and clearly not acceptable to fellow residents who gave us feedback through social media and other channels.
The default and easy option would be to sit back, side with no-one and allow Conservatives to carry on ruling over us in a minority administration, as the largest party.
After a lot of thinking and work, we have come up with a bespoke and better option than all of the above.
We have punched above our weight by negotiating delegated authority to me and other Whitehill & Bordon Community Party Councillors to oversee EHDC strategy and policy in Whitehill, Bordon Lindford and Greatham, also with a commitment to look at delegating further powers to the town council which we control in full.
The legal mechanism for this is for me to hold a cabinet position as deputy leader and portfolio holder for the Whitehill & Bordon area, and other Whitehill & Bordon Community Party members holding cabinet and assistant portfolio positions, which respects what residents voted for.
Crucially, the deal agreed allows us to vote against any Conservative policy at EHDC we feel would be detrimental to Whitehill, Bordon, Lindford and Greatham.
This means we are not in a traditional ‘coalition’ or offering blind ‘confidence and supply’, instead keeping our independent ability to represent you and vote on what we think best for our community, which is what our group is all about.
Aside from having delegated powers for our area, we have sought to be responsible and create a new EHDC way of working that tries to bring all political sides together. The Conservatives are the largest party and remain in administration but the Lib Dems, as second-largest party, now get a new meaningful role as chairman of the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.
Our focus is negotiating a good deal for our Whitehill, Bordon, Lindford and Greatham community but we seek a strong and fair East Hampshire district across our towns and villages too.
I hope the Conservatives and Lib Dems will support us as we move forward and I will be listening to good ideas from both sides. At a local level, there is a better way than ‘us and them’ and our councillors are already in positive contact with many councillors on different sides.
This is a new and untested way of working and we hope we will have the support of our fellow residents moving forward. Look out for exciting policy announcements in the coming weeks and judge us on what we achieve over the coming years, within the context of what EHDC has the power to do.
We have not become the national government but we can make a positive difference!