Democracy at last - Cavendish ward in west Suffolk is contested at May election for first time in 42 years

Cavendish.

Cavendish. - Credit: citizenside.com

“True democracy” is coming to a west Suffolk parish after 42 years, with villagers set to decide the Cavendish ward’s first ever contested St Edmundsbury Borough election.

Peter Stevens with Tim Glover, chairman of the village hall committee,

Peter Stevens with Tim Glover, chairman of the village hall committee, - Credit: Archant

“True democracy” is coming to a west Suffolk parish after 42 years, with villagers set to decide the Cavendish ward’s first ever contested St Edmundsbury Borough election.

Since 1973, when the borough council was created, the seat has been in Conservative hands, with each of the three councillors completely uncontested at around 10 elections.

Breaking this worrying tradition will be UKIP candidate Stuart Letten, a former Tory politician himself, taking the fight to the incumbent Peter Stevens.

Mr Stevens, who has served 12 years without facing a ballot, said he is looking forward to the challenge, with the cabinet member proud of the council’s record.

Stuart Letten - Cavendish

Stuart Letten - Cavendish - Credit: Archant

“It will give me a chance to get out and about, meeting the residents and fighting for the votes,” he said. “No one can say what will happen on election day.

“On one hand I am happy to be able to go before the ballot for the first time, I didn’t expect it but I am confident I can take on the challenge. On the other hand I am sad to bring an end to what was becoming quite an incredible record.”

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Eight primeministers, from Harold Wilson to David Cameron, have served in the four decades since the ward existed, but each time elections came round not one villager from Brockley, Cavendish, Denston, Hawekdon, Poslingford or Stansfield stood against the Conservatives.

Former borough mayor John Wayman served the ward, which is between Clare and Long Melford, for 24 years, taking over from Karen Rabbett in 1979. He said: “I have always had the view that if someone puts their name forward and gets the ten nominations, then that is democracy working.

“There is no reason to call it undemocratic. If no one contests the election, then I would say people are very happy with what you are doing.”

The 74-year-old said he would be supporting Peter Stevens, claiming that he was not sure what UKIP can offer on a local level.

“If you have an issue with what your council is doing, then you can stand,” he said. “You cannot blame the councillor who always puts his name forward.”

He added: “It will be good that the residents have a choice. I will enjoy going down to the polling booth and making my mark.”

The villagers will face the choice of UKIP or Conservatives, and, in another four-decade first, can also choose to spoil their ballot papers.

Richard Evans lives in Cavendish. He said: “It is going to be a very, very pleasant feeling after all these years.

“Peter (Stevens) has never faced an election before. I don’t know if it is a reflection on the people of Cavendish that no one has stood. Maybe everyone has been happy for 40 years?

“But it is a true democracy, where you have a choice. I think the election will come down to personalities in the end, not party politics.”

The news comes after criticism that five borough wards will be uncontested on May 7, with the rural seats remaining in Conservative hands.

Mr Letten, who has more election experience than the incumbent having already stood in Suffolk County Council elections, has lived in the village of Cavendish for 19 years.

He said: “I wasn’t aware I was breaking such a long run when I put my name forward. It was surprising to hear that it had gone on so long.

“I believe people need a bit of choice. Suffolk is pretty blue (Tory), but I think I have a chance. It would be worrying if all the elections were uncontested.”

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