Each week, public affairs reporter Michael Wilkinson takes an alternative stroll down the corridors of power.
IF you had asked most people in Gloucester a year ago ‘who is Nigel Farage?’ the question would probably have produced some perplexed faces.
Now everyone has got Farage’s UKIP party on their lips as the debate over Europe and immigration intensifies.
What has that got to do with this year’s Gloucester City Council elections one might ask?
Well the European elections are being held on the same day – May 22.
And it is no surprise that city Tories are worried about the UKIP effect. They fear people will put their cross against UKIP’s European candidates and put a similar cross against their city candidates at the same time.
A very public battle between the Tories and UKIP is taking place nationally – and the Conservatives look set to lose many votes to them.
One city Tory told me recently: “I’d be lying if I said the party wasn’t worried. It will be in the seats where majorities are already quite slim that will be most testing.”
Last year’s county council election night was awash with faces worried by the UKIP effect – and the party’s influence back then was minute compared to what it is now.
SPEAKING of elections, why do we have so many when so few can even be bothered to vote?
City councillors are elected in thirds, meaning every year for three years in a row there’s an election.
Then there’s the county council elections, the police and crime commissioner poll, the national elections and the European parliamentary elections.
Yet turnouts have been known to drop to as low as 20-something per cent.
One solution would be to elect city councillors all at the same time, every four years.
A plan to do that for Stroud district councillors might save £300,000 over four years.
Geoff Wheeler, leader of Stroud District Council, said: “For Stroud District Council this could now provide considerable savings in the cost of elections.”
In just a few weeks Gloucester city councillors will preside over budget cuts of some £3.86million. Perhaps we could save a whole wedge of cash whilst saving people the bother of voting every year?
WITH Gloucester City Council stalwart Fred Wood standing down this May, big shoes will need to be filled.
Quedgeley’s Dave Norman is hoping to fill them. He tried to win the Grange and Kingsway seat in the county council elections last year but he lost out to Labour’s Barry Kirby by some 93 votes – probably thanks to more than 100 Tory voters who switched to the aforementioned UKIP.
Now he’s coming back and hopes that Fred’s 400-strong majority will be enough to secure victory, even if UKIP field a candidate.