Essex: Councillors dismiss threat from UKIP

Stuart Agnew at the launch of the UKIP election campaign in Norwich; Photo: Bill Smith; Copy: Shaun

Stuart Agnew at the launch of the UKIP election campaign in Norwich; Photo: Bill Smith; Copy: Shaun Lowthorpe; - Credit: Archant © 2009

PARTY leaders in Essex have down played the threat UKIP pose in the upcoming county council elections despite the anti-EU group putting up candidates for every seat.

The full list of nominations for the May 2 elections were published yesterday and include nine UK Independent Party candidates standing for divisions in Colchester and eight in Tendring.

This is the first time in the party’s history candidates have been put forward for all 75 divisions across the county.

Essex County Council (ECC) is currently led by a Tory administration made up of 60 Conservatives, 11 Liberal Democrats, two Labour and two independent councillors.

UKIP’s MEP for the Eastern Counties, Stuart Agnew said: “I’m delighted but not surprised. Essex has always been a strong area for us and our branches have worked really hard to fill every vacancy.

“It demonstrates UKIP’s growing maturity and that we are no longer a fringe Party in domestic elections. The other parties had better watch out!”

Councillors from the three main political parties said they were not surprised a high number of UKIP candidates were standing this year, but said people were influenced by local policies rather than what is going on nationally.

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Conservative candidate Mick Page, who is standing for re-election for Frinton and Walton division, said: “I’m not surprised there are more UKIP standing this year. Nationally there has been an upsurge but what the Conservatives have a good record of achievement over the last few years here.

“People forget what’s going on nationally and look at local politics.

“Our administration has successfully implemented £370million worth of savings while keeping down council tax and delivering what people want.”

Also standing for a seat on the county council this year is Conservative leader of Tendring District Council Peter Halliday and former Harwich Labour MP Ivan Henderson.

Leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats at ECC, Mike Mackrory said: “UKIP is not a threat as far as we’re concerned. In fact it works to our advantage because all the local elections and the Eastleigh parliamentary by-election showed the Conservatives lose more votes to UKIP than other political parties.

“We are quietly optimistic. We have had five recent by-elections in Chelmsford and Brentwood we held our two seats and gained in the last 12 months.”

Leader of the Labour group at ECC Julie Young said: “You can’t ignore the effect UKIP had on the Eastleigh by-election. They are clearly eroding the Tory vote.

“But I wouldn’t say I feel threatened by them. A lot of people like to support who is standing for the local community. Aside from party politics that’s what I have tried to focus on.

“I am confident but not complacent. I hope to be meeting plenty of people between now and the election. The result you get out depends on the work you put in.”

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