ON Thursday, May 22 the voters head to the polls to deliver their verdict on Worcester City Council. Our ward-by-ward coverage continues with a look at Bedwardine.
BEDWARDINE is a strong nut to crack for any rival parties looking to knock the Conservatives off their perch.
The last time a seat was contested here in 2012, Councillor Derek Prodger polled 969 votes to comfortably beat second placed Labour, which polled 597.
The ward has followed a similar pattern over the years, and in 2011 Tory Councillor Marc Bayliss got 1,464 votes, with Labour on 829.
This time around, the Conservative's hopes will fall on David Wilkinson, who chair's the city council's planning committee.
Cllr Wilkinson is also well known for his love of architecture, and was appointed the council's heritage champion prior to chairing the committee.
For the first time ever voters in Bedwardine have seven candidates to choose from this year, with Labour expected once again to be the biggest challenger.
The party has selected Jennifer McConnel, a politics student at the University of Worcester, to fight the seat.
Ms McConnel is vice-chair of Worcester's Labour students branch.
Veteran left wing activist Peter McNally is putting himself forward once again for Trade Unionists and Socialists Against the Cuts, while the Liberal Democrats main Worcester branch organiser Mike Mullins is their candidate.
Unlike in 2012 UKIP have a candidate, which is sure to influence the vote, while the Greens and BNP have also put names on the ballot sheet, meaning voters in Bedwardine have more choice than anywhere else in the city.
Although anything other than a Tory victory would be a surprise, with so many candidates battling for votes it could be closer than in previous years.
Because the ward is so close to St John's, parking and the success of the shops are vitally important issues.
This is a wealthy ward - people who live there are likely to be more affluent and live healthier than other parts of the city.
Just 2.9 per cent of its population are claiming unemployment benefits, compared with 4.2 per cent across the rest of Worcester.
That means despite it being so close to the university, just 2.8 per cent of the ward's properties are student homes, one of the lowest tallies in Worcester.
Instead, the students tend to live in St John's and the other nearby ward of St Clement, a situation which has led to the council bringing in new rules to help spread them out better.
From July a cap of 10 per cent is coming into force on all houses of multiple occupation, which could result in a knock-on impact for Bedwardine given its proximity to the university.
WHAT THE CANDIDATES HAVE TO SAY
JENNIFER MCCONNEL (LAB)
As a student at the University of Worcester, I quickly came to love my adopted home town.
Worcester is such a great city, with so much untapped potential, and I would be honoured to be able to represent the people of Bedwardine and ensure that their voices are heard loud and clear.
Ideas such as developing a bid to make Worcester the UK’s Capital of Culture can only raise the profile of our city.
I know that people are struggling with fuel bills, and I am delighted to support your Labour city council’s partnership with the charity Act on Energy, helping residents find ways of reducing their bill. In these difficult times, it seems that the most vulnerable people have been hit hardest.
I look forward to working with those people at a local level, and to engaging with the community to ensure that nobody is left behind.
PETER MCNALLY (TUSAC)
Government claims that the economy is recovering and their plan is working are only true for the rich.
The richest 5 families in the UK have as much wealth as the poorest 13 million people.
No-one can or will stop the bankers getting bonuses. Members of Parliament punish the poor but enrich themselves.
Living standards for the majority will not return to pre-crash levels for years and one million people are now reliant on food banks, see The Socialist, issue 808.
I oppose all cuts to council and NHS jobs, services, pay and conditions. I oppose the bedroom tax and privatisation.
I will campaign for real jobs, with contracts and a minimum wage of £10 per hour, and support all workers in struggle.
MIKE MULLINS (LD)
Mike is Chairman of the local Lib Dem branch, having been involved in politics since joining the SDP as a founder member in 1981.
He has lived in St Johns since 1983 having moved here from his home-town of Sheffield where he also studied and became a qualified engineer. He has worked in Worcester since then as an engineering designer.
Mike’s family have been brought up in St John's attending local schools, and his wife Pam was a school-teacher locally as well.
Now both retired he work for voluntary organisations and is keen to devote time to representing this area, where he has spent so much of his adult working life, on the city council. The city’s west side has distinctive characteristics which deserve to have an effective and more independent voice.
RUSSELL O'DELL (GREEN)
I have been a key member of Worcestershire Greenpeace and have been involved in local environmental issues such as the University of Worcester new build, Worcester Abundance and River Severn bank erosion.
I work at a local college, teaching horticulture to young adults with autism, and have lived in Worcester for 11 years.
I am pleased with the Green Party’s pledge to double spending on youth services, spending an extra £1 billion a year so that local councils can provide a variety of activities that give young people fun and affordable things to do.
Many people are still living in fuel poverty and money paid to utility companies outside of Worcester means money is diverted from our local economy.
I would like to see the council help people make their homes more energy efficient – for example, through loft insulation. I also believe that more could be done to increase recycling rates, such as by introducing a food waste scheme.
MARTYN WHEELER (UKIP)
I am 69, married with one son and three grandchildren. I am a retired Sales Manager in the computer industry.
In the 1970s I voted in favour of the “Common Market”. Unfortunately the ‘United States of Europe‘ secret agenda was kept hidden from the electorate. This loss of sovereignty and control must end and we must free ourselves from the devious treaties of the past 40 years.
Also, we must stop local major party representatives from separating national issues from local issues. Local problems of population, housing, infrastructure, quality of life, etc., are a direct result of National Policies and the EU.
In the 1990s I was a Councillor and Deputy Chairman of the St. Peter’s Parish Council. If elected I will use this experience and my passion for an independent nation to represent the citizens of Bedwardine in a positive and pro-active manner.
TIMOTHY WHITWAM (BNP)
I'm standing for the BNP in Bedwardine because of the other parties' backgrounds.
Labour are infested with war mongerers, 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 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.
DAVID WIKINSON (CON)
I have enjoyed representing Bedwardine on Worcester City Council for the last four years. I have been involved with numerous areas of council activity, including planning (I am currently chairman of the planning committee), housing, and historic environment (I am the council’s elected member champion for historic environment and design).
I have given help and advice to residents on a variety of subjects, ranging from planning matters to boundary disputes, and including topics such as the maintenance of pavements, provision of road signs, and how to deal with urban foxes.
I have been pleased with the positive responses I have received from local people to my recent survey.
This showed that the things which local people are most concerned about are locally the roads and pavements, traffic congestion, litter and dog mess, and nationally immigration, health, the economy and jobs.
If re-elected I will give these issues priority in representing Bedwardine.