Voters are to be denied their democratic right to vote in their next political representatives in four of Petersfield Town Council’s six wards at the May 4 local elections because of a lack of candidates.
Before a single vote has been cast at this year’s local elections, Conservative Party candidates have already been elected uncontested in four of the town council’s 12 seats, Lib Dems in two, and an independent in one.
Of the only wards going to election, in Petersfield Bell Hill voters have a choice of three councillors – an independent, a Conservative and a Lib Dem – for two seats. And in Petersfield Rother, electors can choose between a Conservative and a Lib Dem for one seat.
There will also be two vacancies, with seats going unclaimed in Petersfield St Peter’s and Petersfield Ramshill, meaning of Petersfield Town Council’s 12 seats, just three will be occupied by candidates voted in by the public.
There are more candidates to choose from at district level.
But leader of East Hampshire’s Lib Dem group, Steve Hunt, has said the absence of town candidates “makes a mockery of local democracy”.
Cllr Hunt (Lib Dem, Alton Amery) said: "Did you know that on April 4 this year, 214 councillors were elected to towns and parishes throughout East Hampshire? Yet not one person has voted for these candidates who will now be their parish councillors from April 5. In our area, only 35 out of 329 town and parish councils will face an actual vote. Polls are to be held in only 11 out of 56 wards.
"Even worse, despite this, even after those few seats that will be voted for are filled, there will still be 80 vacant town and parish seats. There are parishes where only half, or fewer, than the required number of councillors are elected. In Alton, only one ward will vote, for two councillors. In Petersfield, two wards will vote for three councillors.
"This threatens the very legitimacy of this level of local government.
"Among those who have been elected, without a vote, will be many ‘paper’ candidates. People who have put their name forward to stand for an election who had no intention of becoming a councillor.
"The absence of enough candidates makes a mockery of local democracy in our towns and villages.
"The question is why are residents not willing to stand for public office in our towns and villages?"
Read Cllr Hunt's full comments on Page 11 of this week's print edition.
Contested and uncontested wards at Petersfield Town Council on May 4:
Petersfield Bell Hill (two seats – contested):
Jamie Matthews (Independent)
Chris Paige (Conservative)
David Petche (Lib Dem)
Petersfield Rother (one seat – contested):
Paul Milner (Conservative)
Mary Vincent (Lib Dem)
Petersfield Causeway (two seats – uncontested):
Louise Bevan (Lib Dems) ELECTED
John Lees (Conservative) ELECTED
Petersfield Heath (two seats – uncontested):
Steve Dewy (Conservative) ELECTED
Lesley Farrow (Independent) ELECTED
Petersfield Ramshill (three seats – uncontested):
JC Crissey (Conservative) ELECTED
Phil Shaw (Lib Dem) ELECTED
Petersfield St Peter’s (two seats – uncontested):
Martin Holmes (Conservative) ELECTED