LAST week’s city council elections in Exeter saw Labour do well again.
We increased our number of councillors to 27 out of a total of 40 on the council. Labour gained three seats – Heavitree and Polsloe from the Conservatives and Alphington from the Liberal Democrats. The Conservatives are now down to 10 councillors and the Liberal Democrats three.
We also elected, as far as my memory serves me, the first councillor from an ethnic minority in Exeter – a woman and a Muslim – and young councillors who are still undergraduates at the university.
I’m pleased that young people are keen and committed enough to put themselves forward for election and that in a city whose university is so important for our prosperity, we now have councillors who are students.
It’s a credit to council leader Pete Edwards and his team to have done so well. He’s run a tight ship. Exeter’s council tax is the fifth lowest in England yet, in spite of all the cuts imposed by the Government, Exeter has managed to maintain services that are well run.
He’s also done well attracting inward investment to Exeter, helping our economy weather the global financial crisis. Contrast this to Conservative controlled Devon County Council, who are closing our youth centres, care homes for the elderly and children’s homes and turning off our street lights.
I was sorry to see the leader of the Conservative group on the city council, Yolanda Henson lose her seat in Polsloe, though. I have known Yolanda since I was a young reporter on this newspaper in the early 1980s. She has always worked hard for people in Polsloe and put Exeter’s interests first. She came under huge pressure from her party nationally and at County Hall to oppose Exeter’s long-standing ambition to achieve unitary council status, so we could run our own affairs, instead of having a lot of decisions that affect us made by the county.
It would have been much more difficult to persuade the last Labour Government to make the change without all-party support in the city.
We got there in 2010, only for the new Tory/Lib Dem Government, in an act of breathtaking political spite, to reverse Labour’s legislation.
Yolanda should be congratulated for having put Exeter before party.
In the European elections, it was great to get Labour’s Clare Moody elected after we’d lost our only MEP in 2009. Clare will be a strong voice for the South West in Brussels. She worked tirelessly during the campaign, criss-crossing the region and making several visits to Exeter.
I was also pleased the other winners were the Greens, rather than Ukip. (Labour and the Greens gained one seat each, the Tories and Lib Dems lost one each).
Renewable energy and the environmental sector generally are an important and growing part of the South West economy. Our region has also suffered more than most from the extreme weather events associated with climate change.
So there is considerable disappointment that David Cameron, who once road huskies in the Arctic to draw attention to global warming and promised “the greenest Government ever” has completely reneged on that promise. So it is far preferable to have our first Green MEP in the region than another climate change denier from Ukip or the Tories.
Thanks to all the volunteers who worked so hard and to all the voters who turned out to keep the wheel of democracy in our city turning.