Democracy doubts for us in the East Riding

As the saying goes, ‘the public has voted’ and, following last week’s election, the East Riding remains a Conservative stronghold.

The East Riding Conservatives now have a remarkable 80 per cent of the seats at County Hall, a result their party colleagues at Westminster must surely envy. Their nearest rivals are the Labour party - with a mere seven per cent of the seats.

Great news for the East Riding Conservatives then, but with no opposition to speak of at County Hall, what does it mean for democracy in the East Riding? Who is going to question decisions now?

With such a large majority, the East Riding Conservatives should have no problem in pushing through the policies they have been elected for, and they will be able to take full credit for successful council initiatives such as the well-regarded bin collection service which continues to go from strength to strength.

On the other hand there will be no room to hide if things go wrong. For that reason, I expect to see the new administration quickly taking steps to tackle the dreadful accident record of the A1079.

They also inherit two serious errors of judgement from their predecessor, which continue to rumble in the background.

Firstly, the issue of the £360K of taxpayers’ money wasted on an unnecessary pension contribution for a senior council officer taking early retirement last year. In the ensuing recriminations, local MP Graham Stuart (Conservative) reported that he felt the council was trying to intimidate an MP, and the council’s attempt to defend the indefensible raised important questions about democratic accountability and leadership.

Secondly, the unresolved shambles of the car parking review, in which the council tried to pervert the important issue of parking into a revenue-generation opportunity for itself, and against the best interests of the local communities.

Given its landslide majority, the new regime should now have the confidence to admit to these mistakes and mend fences.

However, in the absence of any real opposition at County Hall, it is to our town and parish councils that we have to look for democratic balance in the East Riding. Town councillors are well placed to challenge and question County Hall, especially to ensure that local needs and priorities are properly reflected in region-wide policies.

I am particularly reassured by the emergence of a new alliance between many of the region’s Town and Parish Councils, including Pocklington.

Although born in extremis as a defensive measure against the previous East Riding Council’s parking charges grab, this ‘Council of Councils’ is starting to become a valuable forum where town and parish councillors from across the East Riding can work together on areas of common cause, Fortunately, democracy appears to be alive and well in Pocklington.

The three incumbent Conservative ward councillors retained their seats as expected, but the surprise of the day was the new East Yorkshire Independents, a party which did not even exist a year ago.

They comprehensively beat all the other mainstream varieties, coming in second place with an impressive 33 per cent of the vote against the Conservatives’ 44 per cent. Overnight they have become the main opposition to the Conservative rule in Pocklington, and a timely reminder to the ward councillors that their seats can no longer be taken for granted.

That should be good news for Pocklington.

Richard Borrie,

Pocklington