On Surrey Breakfast with Nick Wallis on BBC Surrey this morning there was an interview with Haslemere resident, Nikki Barton, who is one a group considering fielding an independent in the Surrey County Council elections in May 2013.
The interview was at 7.10am and will be available on iPlayer shortly after the show for 7 days.
On Twitter, @BBCSurrey & @nickwallis. Here is a summary of the interview.
(Nick Wallis: NW. Nikki Barton: NB)
NW: Residents in Haslemere could be about to take matters into their own hands. A community group called Haslemere Vision say they are so frustrated by the lack of support from Surrey County Council that they are considering standing their own candidate for the local council in the elections in May. Nikki Barton is a member of the group and we can speak to her now. Hi there Nikki.
NB: Hi. Good morning, Nick.
NW: Is this all about parking?
NB: I’d like to correct you on one thing. It isn’t the Haslemere Vision that will be putting up a candidate. It is basically the Haslemere Action Group that has been established over the past 14 months to challenge Surrey County Council on the parking.
NW: OK. So, Haslemere Action Group will be fronting a candidate, in the County elections or the borough…
NB: In the County elections. It hasn’t been finalised.
NW: Why are you doing this? Is this because of parking or is this because of wider things?
NB: I think it has really come out of the parking debacle that we’ve experienced. And the …that we have over experienced over the past 14 months. I should stress that nobody in the group has any interest in entering the political realm at all.
NW: Well, this is the problem isn’t it. If you refuse to engage in politics, you have the consequences of being governed by your inferiors which is exactly the problem that you seem to think you have.
NB: I think that you do have a very good point there. I think that what we have felt for the past 14 months is that there has been a total failure by our elected representatives to actually represent the best interests of the town.
NW: What’s the local borough that Haslemere is part of?
NB: It is Haslemere. Haslemere has a Surrey County Councillor. Oh … you mean Waverley.
NW: Yes, Waverley which I think is unique in being one of the few places that is entirely Conservative run. In fact there were several seats that the Conservatives stood for unopposed in the last borough elections.
NW: I guess this sounds like it is symptomatic of a fairly rotten democracy, doesn’t it, in West Surrey.
NB: Well, I have to say it really hasn’t functioned well for us and we’ve turned out in our hundreds and actually thousands of people have signed petitions to try and challenge a system that really doesn’t seem fit for purpose. We have the Waverley Local Area Committee which makes decisions on our behalf. And, repeatedly hundreds of Haslemere residents have sat and listened in astonishment as a group of councillors, many of whom, most of whom aren’t actually from Haslemere make decisions about our local community. Our local representatives have not represented our best interests.
NW: Is the parking issue the catalyst for all this?
NB: Well it has been. Absolutely.
NW: You’d better explain then for people who may coming to this cold, exactly why it is such a big grievance in Haslemere.
NB: Well, 14 months ago, we discovered in the back of The Herald, our local paper, a statutory notice that Surrey County Council were about to put Pay & Display meters throughout our small market town, in which we are very blessed to have a good number of independent shops. It would have really destroyed the High Street. That was just one part of a very wide swathe of parking measures that they were hoping to introduce. This was without any proper consultation. The consultation that has happened has been done behind closed doors as far as we could understand. I think that was the beginning really. It’s just been a journey of amazement and disillusionment that people we elected to represent us have failed us so badly.
NW: You know why councils do this, don’t you. They get huge amounts of money from resident parking schemes and these pay & display things and it allows them to keep their council tax rises pretty low, which is what pleases their bosses in the national parties. They can say, oh we haven’t increased council tax because they are managing to find new streams of revenue through the parking charges.
NB: I actually agree but what we have been asking for is a holistic strategy for the town, an intelligent strategy because Haslemere does have the issue of commuter parking. We have a fantastic mainline service. But actually, what we feel the proposals would have done without any consultation with the community is actually destroy the character and economic vitality of our community. It’s all very well charging the town to death but actually, if in the process you actually kill the golden goose then you are left with nothing. And people just felt there was just such a lack of respect really for a very strong community. The really good thing that has come out of this is that the community has really come together and out of the strength of community feeling, Haslemere Vision has grown, which under the Localism Act communities now have the right to form a plan for themselves and that is what a very passionate of people are doing at the moment. If one of us was wanting to stand, one of the real reasons behind that would be to support actively the Vision, to work with the community for the first time we feel.
NW: There’s a kind of people’s rebellion going on in the Tory heartland of West Surrey.
NW: And when are you going to stop teasing us and actually announce the candidate?
NB: Well, we’re just trying to finalise, because it’s a big decision. Really none of us wants to enter the political realm.
NW: You’ve got to because it’s the only way to get anything changed. The penny has finally dropped. This is how engagement and democracy should work. Otherwise you just let the usual parties do their things.
NB: I think the real fear is that it seems to us anyway so dysfunctional, it would be a big plunge for somebody to enter into that world.
NW: You sound like you’re up for the fight Nikki Barton. I can see you standing up at County Hall and making those points that you’ve so eloquently made on the radio.
NB: Well, I don’t know Nick. We’re just trying to finalise. . . I mean for example..
NW: Nikki, I can’t take another example because we’ve got to go. But listen, it’s always a pleasure to speak and thank you very much indeed for coming on. That’s Nikki Baron. She’d make a good politician, wouldn’t she. Good campaigner. See that happening. I hope she’s not using it as a bargaining tool. Give us what we want or we’ll run a candidate against you. Just get in there. Get stuck in.