Shropshire Star

Candidates gearing up for Telford council by-election

As North Shropshire goes to the polls to choose a new MP in full view of the national media, 7,000 Telford residents will also get the chance to choose a new councillor.

The election will choose a new councillor for Telford & Wrekin Council's Dawley and Aqueduct ward

Dawley and Aqueduct, to the south of the town, has a vacant spot after Labour incumbent Concepta Cassar resigned her Telford and Wrekin Council seat last month.

Bob Wennington is hoping to defend it for the party, while Liberal Democrat Cathy Salter and Conservative Kate Barnes – who came within five per cent of winning a seat in the ward earlier this year – are also standing in next Thursday’s by-election.

All three candidates have backgrounds in education, as Mr Wennington is a retired teacher from Dawley’s Phoenix School, Mrs Salter is former teaching assistant and learning mentor at Captain Webb Primary and Mrs Barnes is Madeley Academy assistant head.

In the last full election, in May 2019, Labour won all three seats in the ward, recording 62 per cent of the vote.

Jane Pinter, one of the councillors re-elected that year, resigned in 2020, and a coronavirus-delayed by-election to replace her was held in May this year.

Labour’s Ian Preece won the closely-fought contest with 1,310 votes, while Mrs Barnes polled 1,192 and Mrs Salter received 72.

The Dawley and Aqueduct ward incorporates the town of Dawley at its north end and Little Dawley and Aqueduct further south.

Bob Wennington is Labour's candidate in the Dawley and Aqueduct by-election.

In 2019, parts of the ward north of Captain Webb Primary and west of the Telford Langley School were ranked in the top 10 per cent most deprived areas of England under government “indices of deprivation”.

The southwest portion of the ward, surrounding Castlefields Way, the A4169 Queensway roundabout and Majestic Way, was classed as in the 30 per cent least deprived.

Dawley Hamlets Local Nature Reserve was formally recognised by Natural England in spring this year, after a recommendation by Telford and Wrekin Council and the parish council.

Mr Wennington chairs the Friends of DHLNR group, while Mrs Barnes volunteers for it and holds the role of Events Secretary.

Mr Wennington says he has a record of working with the area’s incumbent borough councillors.

“Working together has already resulted in investment into green spaces, improvement in roads, footpaths and infrastructure, along with the much-needed support for our High Street,” he said.

He also praised Telford and Wrekin Council’s announcement of £2.5 million on “borough-wide community safety projects”.

Kate Barnes, the Conservative candidate in the Dawley and Aqueduct by-election.

“I want to ensure Dawley and Aqueduct sees its fair share so we can bring back visible policing,” Mr Wennington said.

Mrs Barnes said: “Caring for our area is key to me and I’ve fought to get pavements and roads improved, better facilities in our areas – such as goalposts on the old Phoenix Fields and new play equipment in Southall Park – and ‘little libraries’ across Dawley and Aqueduct.

“I’ve also lobbied for more action on anti-social behaviour and an increase in visibility from our local policing teams, improved road safety, particularly around our local schools, better tree management for problem trees and I’ve pushed to save further green spaces in our area.”

Mrs Salter said: “Road safety around schools is a particular concern for residents and I would work with my Liberal Democrat colleagues on the council to find solutions to this issue.”

Council officers are currently selecting up to three pilot primary schools for the “School Streets” initiative, which sees localised road closures at drop-off and pick-up times during term, bringing safety and environmental benefits.

This work, which also involves the borough’s Children and Young People Scrutiny Committee and is awaiting sign-off from the cabinet, originated with a motion tabled by Lib Dem Newport South and East councillor Thomas Janke at a full council meeting last year.

Liberal Democrat Cathy Salter, healthcare assistant and candidate in Dawley and Aqueduct by-election

Mrs Salter added: “The pandemic has highlighted how important our green spaces are. I am a Street Champion and I am passionate about preserving and protecting them.”

She said, if elected, she would be a “hardworking advocate for local people”.

Mr Wennington said he would continue working for the community and “put my local knowledge to good use for the benefit of everyone”.

Mrs Barnes said her “core aim” is “ensuring our council delivers value for money and quality services”.

“After two Labour resignations, Dawley and Aqueduct need someone who is not going to let them down,” she said.

All three candidates for the borough council seat are serving parish councillors. Both Mrs Barnes and Mr Wennington represent the Aqueduct ward on Dawley Hamlets Parish Council, while Mrs Salter was elected to Lawley and Overdale Parish Council in a by-election earlier this year.

Ms Cassar also resigned her parish council seat, and a parallel by-election will be held in her former Aqueduct ward on December 16. The candidates are: Conservative Steve Barnes, Mrs Barnes’s husband and fellow teachercouncillorlr Preece, for Labour; and Lib Dem Mrs Salter.

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