Independents storm Market Drayton Town Council election

A host of new independent candidates won over voters to take Market Drayton Town Council out of Conservative control.

Market Drayton HIgh Street. Photo: Google.
Market Drayton HIgh Street. Photo: Google.

In one of the most hotly contested polls in the county, seven seats were won by independents while Conservatives took the remaining five.

At the last local elections in 2017, the Conservatives won 11 out of the 12 seats.

Among the independent candidates to this time around were former Conservative town councillor Tim Beckett and former Conservative Shropshire councillor Roger Hughes, both of whom have recently left the party.

Councillor Jill Beckett, another former Conservative, was also standing as an independent but was unsuccessful in retaining her seat in the South ward, as was Labour incumbent Alan Cartwright.

The departure of Mrs Beckett means the town council will have an all-male line-up.

Deputy mayor Roger Smith – the only independent elected in 2017 – was re-elected in South ward, and is joined by new councillors Geoff Chevins (Ind) and Anthony Allen (Con).

Conservative mayor Roy Aldcroft and newly independent Tim Beckett held onto their seats in the East ward, but former mayor Steve Glover (Con) was beaten by new candidate Baz Chapman (Ind).

In the North ward, 13 candidates were in the running for six seats and the biggest winner was new independent candidate Tim Manton, who was one of the driving forces behind the campaign that successfully fought off the Longford Turning development.

Incumbent Conservatives Mark Whittle, Ian Nellins and Matt Erwin were re-elected, along with independent councillor Mike Smith.

Conservative councillor John Gough failed to hold onto his seat, with a newly independent Roger Hughes taking the final spot.

Five of the seven independents – Mike Smith, Tim Manton, Tim Beckett, Geoff Chevins and Baz Chapman – are part of the ‘Market Drayton Independents’ collective.

Councillor Smith said: “I would really like to thank all candidates from all parties and our own independents for standing.

“I joined the town council two years ago as an independent to try and change things in Market Drayton.

“There was Roger Smith and myself as independents, one Labour and nine Conservatives, so it was very hard work.”

Councillor Smith said he was on the verge of stepping down, until he began talking to other residents of the town who said they wanted to stand as independent candidates. They also included Len Donnelly, Sam Walton and Nicky McDaid, who did not win seats.

He added: “All of the independents were fantastic. Even those who did not get on will remain in our group of like-minded individuals.

“It is a perfect outcome for democracy.”

Councillor Manton said he was “absolutely delighted” to be joining the town council.

Message

He said: “People have seen the work that we have done, they like the message, and they voted with their feet – they said ‘yes, we want to see change’.

“We feel that as a town we have been forgotten, and we want to change that.

“The public on the whole are not happy at all with the inactivity of the town council.

“What we have happily done is broken that Conservative stronghold.”

It was second time lucky for Councillor Chevins, who ran for election in 2017 but missed out on a seat.

He said he was “humbled” that so many people had put their faith in him at such a crucial time for the town, and the country as a whole.

Councillor Chevins said: “I have got a steep learning curve to go through and once I have found my feet I shall be doing my very best to support and help grow Market Drayton.

“I complain about an awful lot of stuff and I believe if you’re prepared to complain about it you should be prepared to stand up and help support it.

“I really believe that over the next decade or more local councils are going to be in a very precarious financial situation. We are going to really struggle and we can’t afford to waste money. I want to make sure every pound is spent wisely.”

Those who missed out this time could have another chance fairly soon – with the town council looking at potentially increasing its numbers from 12 to 17.

Mayor Councillor Aldcroft said: “It looks like we have got some new faces, and hopefully we will be working together for the benefit of the town over the next four years.

“We have got one or two challenges coming up – the Local Plan, housing development, the sports facilities and pushing either for a splash pool or the outdoor pool to re-open at the swimming baths, trying to make the best of the new Marina development along the canal to bring tourists into the town, increasing the footfall and giving our traders something to trade on.”

Councillor Aldcroft paid tribute to the councillors who were not re-elected, saying: “I would just like to say a big thank you for all their hard work on the town council, and maybe with a little rest they will come back and join us again at a later stage.”

Mark Whittle, Conservative group leader, added: “It’s a shame that unfortunately they have lost on this occasion.

“Hopefully we and the new councillors can all work together to do something positive.”

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