Election coverage: The crucial battle being played out in Worcester's Cathedral ward

Taxis in Foregate Street, Worcester

Taxis in Foregate Street, Worcester

First published in News
Last updated
Worcester News: Tom Edwards by , Political Reporter

ON Thursday, May 22, voters go to the polls to deliver their verdict on Worcester City Council. Our ward-by-ward coverage continues with a look at Cathedral.

OF all 12 city council wards up for grabs, by far the most talked-about is Cathedral.

This political battlefield is sure to be the most hotly contested in Worcester, with the winning party likely to be the one which forms the new administration over the next year.

The Cathedral ward takes in the entire city centre, meaning it is at the beating heart of Worcester, with both the Tories and Labour believing they can win it.

Not only is it vitally important to both main parties, Cathedral's 'story' becomes all the more fascinating with the candidates due to contest it.

Councillor Jabba Riaz, Labour's hopeful, was elected to the ward in 2010 as a Conservative with a massive 1,529 votes.

He swiftly moved up the Tory ranks and became part of the leadership, as cabinet member for safer and stronger communities, a role which involves decisions in key areas like CCTV, community centres and work with the police to reduce crime.

Aware that he faced a battle to retain the seat for the Tories, he tried to switch to the safer seat of Battenhall but was refused during the selection process last autumn.

Just days after that, he quit and announced he was joining Labour, saying he was fed up of David Cameron's "disastrous" policies and that he was planning to swap sides anyway.

The saga has rumbled on over the last few months, and shows no signs of abating less than two weeks before the count.

The Conservatives are determined to show Cllr Riaz his move was a mistake and have put up Francis Lankester as their candidate, a former councillor and cabinet member himself who was first elected in 1999.

He lost his Cathedral seat two years ago to Labour's Lynn Denham by just 60 votes - a result that shows just how tight the ward can be.

Both main parties know the result here is almost certain to be crucial in which side runs the council.

UKIP is fielding a candidate here, activist Hazel Finch, which could have a decisive impact upon the end result.

The BNP and Green Party are also giving it a go, giving Cathedral voters a choice of five.

Given the ward's location issues like traffic congestion, the future of the city centre, homelessness and taxi numbers are all important to the voters.

For years people have expressed concern about the large numbers of cabbies in Worcester, and back in February the council finally acted by launching a cap for the first time ever, of 231.

HAZEL FINCH (UKIP)

I’ve lived in the city for over 40 years. I’m married with children. In my retirement I work part-time with disabled groups.

During my time in Worcester I witnessed this country’s entry into what was described as a ‘Common Market’. We were told it was all about free-trade with other member countries - we were lied to.

The objective of the EU was always to have a United States of Europe; a federal entity that would dissolve British sovereignty.

The British people have never been asked whether we wanted to be part of such a union.

By casting your vote to UKIP on May 22nd, you can have your say on this question both at a European and local level.

As councillors, UKIP aren’t whipped, and they’re free to put their constituents first and not toe the party line. I’ll do anything in my power to protect public services.

FRANCIS LANKESTER (CON)

I live locally in Diglis, am treasurer of the Friends of Fort Royal Park and Chairman of the Friends of Diglis Field.

I have always stayed loyal to fellow Cathedral Ward residents - and not sought election in a safer seat.

We should build the best possible new swimming pool for Worcester. Conservatives built the Horizon Community Centre, and improved the riverside, Gheluvelt and Fort Royal Parks while protecting local services.

We did it before and we can do it again.

I am proud that the previous Conservative council started to help young people get apprenticeships and pledge to continue this valuable support.

I am determined to stop the Labour council's cuts in street cleansing and litter/dog bins, and to restore its cut in maintaining our play areas.

I am also keen to see the city council support affordable alternatives to pay day loans and borrowing from loan sharks.

ANDREW NORTH (BNP)

I'm standing for the BNP in Cathedral because of the other parties backgrounds.

Labour are infested with war mongerer's, and we believe the Tories lied about our EU referendum.

The Lib Dems are pro EU, contrary to the British people's views. Ukip are not what they seem.

Green Party policies will put up your taxes.

It only leaves the BNP to stand up for local people.

Vote for the other parties and you will get cheated by them.

Only the BNP will put British people first for jobs, housing and healthcare opportunities.

ANNIE 'O'DELL (GREEN)

I have lived in Worcester for 10 years and have been a key member of Worcestershire Greenpeace and a long-term member of Worcester Abundance.

I have also volunteered at St Paul's Hostel and taught organic vegetable production to adults with learning disabilities at Holme Lacy College in Hereford.

I support the idea of establishing a resilient and sustainable food supply so that everyone has access to nutritious, safe and affordable food.

Recent food scares, including the horse meat fiasco, have exposed highly objectionable aspects of our global food supply system, and highlight the desirability of more locally produced food.

Large price rises in global food prices are forcing up the cost of local food, making it essential that we grow more of our own food.

I support local farming and food production that protects the land and our environment, but also provides decent local jobs and respects animal welfare.

JABBA RIAZ (LAB)

I am proud to have grown up in Worcester - a city that is rich in history and culture with a wonderfully diverse population.

Cathedral ward is at the heart of our great city, so has a special role in promoting and safeguarding our heritage and city centre.

I have always lived in Cathedral ward and, over the years, I have played a part with local residents and Friends’ Groups in promoting improvements at Fort Royal Park and Diglis Fields and enhancing the Riverside.

I fought successfully to retain a strong police presence to keep our city centre safe.

With two children of my own, I know how important it is for children to have positive things to do, which is why I help with coaching football locally.

I also volunteer at St Paul’s Hostel.

Worcester’s Labour city council is ambitious for the future of our great city, as I am ambitious for everyone living in Cathedral ward.

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