Norwich City Council elections: Spotlight on Bowthorpe, Eaton and University.
Norwich people go to the polls next month to elect 13 councillors to represent them on the city council. Dan Grimmer shines the spotlight on three of the wards – Bowthorpe, Eaton and University.
In Simon Wright, Norwich might have a Liberal Democrat MP, but it feels a long time since his party were the dominant power at City Hall.
In control of the council from 2002 until 2006, the party's numbers at City Hall have since dwindled to just five.
The most recent loss came last September, when the party lost Thorpe Hamlet to the Greens, so they will be hoping the Lib Dem vote holds up in Eaton in the city council elections on Thursday, May 5.
It's a ward which currently has three Lib Dem councillors and is historically one where they have won convincingly.
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With former Lib Dem group leader at City Hall (and MP's wife) Ros Wright deciding not to run this time, around, it falls to teacher Caroline Ackroyd to keep Eaton Lib Dem.
Labour overhauled the Greens to finish third at last September's Eaton election and will be hoping to pick up Lib Dem voters disillusioned with life in a coalition government.
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But the Conservatives are the more likely challengers, and even then, it would take a fairly hefty shift for them to make Eaton blue.
In the fight for Eaton last September, Lib Dem newcomer James Wright comfortably saw off Conservative Tak Man-Li by more than 400 votes. It's the ward which tends to have the highest percentage turnout in the city, and the Lib Dems are likely to mobilise the troops to make sure it remains firmly in their grasp.
Things are likely to be considerably closer in Bowthorpe. In recent years the ward had become a bit of a bastion of blue, with the Conservatives working hard there to get their candidates elected, at the expense of Labour.
But Labour threw a lot at Bowthorpe in last September's elections and it paid off, with their candidate Jo Storie defeating Conservative group leader Antony Little by 46 votes.
Mr Little's replacement as Conservative group leader at City Hall – Andrew Wiltshire – will be hoping to avoid a repeat of that result.
The Lib Dems and the Green Party are unlikely to get much of a look-in at Bowthorpe. This will come down to a straight fight between Mr Wiltshire and Labour's Mike Sands and could prove one of the most intriguing battles come election night.
Labour usually do well in University ward. Last September Bert Bremner held on to the seat with his party's most comfortable majority in any ward – 755. Popular and long-serving Labour man Roy Blower is not standing this time, so it will be Sarah Grenville hoping to retain the ward for her party.
Her closest challenger is likely to be the Green party's Robbie Laird, with the Lib Dems and Conservatives left to slug it out for third spot. The current make up of the city council is Labour 16, Green 14, Liberal Democrats five and Conservatives four.
Of the wards up for grabs, five are currently held by Labour, four by the Greens, two by the Conservatives and two by the Lib Dems.
In tomorrow's Evening News we take a close-up look at the election battle for Town Close, Nelson and Wensum.
The candidates in BOWTHORPE
Jean BISHOP (Green Party)
Jean is passionate about cycling, allotmenting, wildlife and the natural world. She is also passionate about protecting the NHS and retaining vital services for elderly and vulnerable people.
As a Green Party councillor she would like to work towards a more equal society with fair taxation and greater job opportunities for young people.
Jean, with her partner, Bob, has lived and worked in Norwich for the best part of 40 years. Together they run their own business in the horticultural industry, and have done so for the past three decades.
Jean is delighted to live in a city with the largest percentage of Green councillors anywhere in the country. She feels this provides hope for the future in achieving a fairer and more sustainable society to pass on to future generations.
Hayden PERRETT (Liberal Democrats)
'I have lived in Norwich for 30 years and run my own business. I know the city and the issues well. My top priorities include pressing the council to improve the basic services people receive from City Hall. I really believe that Labour has let down the residents of Bowthorpe and it is time for real change.
'I am very keen to support local businesses if elected. The Lib Dems in Norwich have policies to support local enterprise including setting up a Business Improvement District where local businesses work together to support improvement and investment.
'We also want to use office space at City Hall for new start-up businesses and encourage council tenants to set-up suitable businesses from their own homes. Small businesses are the life-blood of the economy and in these difficult economic times it is vital that the council does everything it can to help them.'
Mike SANDS (Labour Party)
'Bowthorpe and West Earlham have been let down by the Conservatives and they know it. County council cuts in street lights, care and heating allowances for older people, and transport money will hit local people hard. Government policies that drive up council rents at the same time as threatening tenants' rights to stay in their home, reducing police on our streets and making families worse off have incensed many of those I meet.
'I want to be the second Labour councillor for the area to build on the work started after the election last year where Bowthorpe and West Earlham got fed up with Conservative councillors who do not deliver.
'We need a tough team of councillors to take on the priorities of local people and I hope residents will give me that opportunity.'
Andrew WILTSHIRE (Conservative Party)
'I am the current councillor for Bowthorpe, I live in Clover Hill and work in Norwich for adult social services.
'I have represented Bowthorpe on Norwich City Council since 2009. During this time I have represented the views of local residents at City Hall and in other organisations; worked with local community groups and helped lead the change from the Bowthorpe SNAP to the Bowthorpe Forum – which I have chaired since 2009.
'Since I became a councillor, I have worked hard to replace the CCTV in Waldegrave; resolve issues of antisocial behaviour and fly-tipping and campaigned to deal with problems of grounds maintenance in our area.
'If re-elected in May, I will stand up for local people, keep you informed of my work through regular newsletters delivered to your door and in the Bowthorpe news and continue to fight for decent services and a value-for-money council tax.'
The candidates in EATON
Caroline ACKROYD (Liberal Democrats)
'I was born and educated in Norwich until university when I moved to Cardiff. Having completed my PGCE in Nottingham I moved back to Norwich to begin teaching at the former Northfields First School.
'Thirty-eight years later, I am still teaching in Norwich, although now part-time. My particular enthusiasm in education for over twenty years has been and remains the role of IT in enriching the curriculum and enhancing life outcomes for pupils.
'When my own children were small I was active in setting up local community activities such as play schemes and after school provision. I am currently involved in a housing organisation which offers temporary self-contained accommodation in conjunction with a support package to lone parent families in times of need. I feel very privileged to have been offered the opportunity to stand as Liberal Democrat candidate in Eaton where I live and, if elected, I look forward to working with the rest of the local team.'
Jeremy BARTLETT (Green Party)
Jeremy has lived in Norwich for 25 years and works as a self-employed web designer, specialising in websites for small businesses and charities. His wife, Vanna, is a self employed artist.
Jeremy wants to work as a Green councillor to represent the voters of Eaton ward and to be part of one of the biggest and most active groups of Green Party councillors in the country.
He supports various environmental and human rights organisations, including life membership of the Yare Valley Society, Norfolk Wildlife Trust, Amnesty International, Norwich Stop The War Coalition, RSPB, Garden Organic, Soil Association and Friends of the Earth.
In his spare time he loves gardening, and has two allotments where he and Vanna grow their own fruit and vegetables. He is also leading the planting of the Grapes Hill Community Garden, a former area of tarmac near the city centre.
Chris GROVES (Conservative)
'For the past five years I have lived in Eaton. I was born and have lived in Norfolk all my life, except for studying for my degree and serving as an infantry officer in the British Army. For the past 10 years I have worked in management consultancy, including running my own business for seven years.
'My wife has been an NHS midwife for the past sixteen years, and my daughter attends a local school.
'I know there are many areas where money can be saved, especially if we strip away the bureaucracy, statistics collecting and performance recording brought in by the last Labour government.
'Whilst nationally the Conservatives and Lib Dems are working together to get the country out of the mess that Labour left us in, locally there are some key differences between our parties. The Conservatives have always believed and voted for lower council tax, whilst the Lib Dems failed to support us and sat on their hands when Labour put forward their own tax hikes.'
Verity SINCLAIR (Labour)
'Eaton residents have usually chosen between Lib Dem and Conservative candidates, but this year many have told me they are unhappy with both.
'The policies of the government will hit young people hard, and as a young candidate I am inviting people in Eaton to express their concerns for future generations by voting for me.
'I am standing because I believe we all have a responsibility for helping the country recover, but we must do it in a way that is fair and sensible. I want to make my contribution by paying taxes and being able to use my degree to work to contribute to the economic growth of the country.
'I don't want to see older people, families and students suffering because of unfair cuts. I will give a voice to the concerns of local people and help build a future for our city.'
The candidates in UNIVERSITY ward
Tom CANNON (Conservative)
'I am passionate about working with local people to help resolve the problems we face in our communities. I live in West Earlham and am currently studying for a degree in history and politics at the University of East Anglia.
'I believe I can work as an effective advocate for both the local residents and the students who live within the ward.
'If elected I would work to resolve the parking issues across the ward and focus on trying to get a resolution to the problems of the five ways roundabout.
'I would also work with the New City Academy to help ensure that the great steps it has already taken are sustained.'
Sarah GRENVILLE (Labour and Co-operative Party)
'People of all age groups are concerned about the future. Everyone agrees the deficit must be dealt with but the unfair way it is being done and the effect on the lives or ordinary people is upsetting.
'Cuts to police and our respected safer neighbourhood team, coupled with turning out street lights take away the peace of mind of young and old. From fear of crime to worrying about missing a kerb in the dark and falling over, all have been raised with me.
'Our local Labour team has a reputation for speaking out for local people and as times get tougher I want to add my commitment to that.
'As a former head teacher I understand the problems families face, have worked with younger people facing a challenging future and I think I have a lot to offer.'
Robbie LAIRD (Green Party)
If elected, Robert would like to see residents being properly consulted on issues affecting them, such as bus routes, planning applications and the awarding of council contracts.
He would like to work closely with local people so their voices are really heard in City Hall. He would work towards involving residents in the drawing up of local budgets and how best to spend money. His aims would involve fighting cuts and costly privatisation to local services as well as championing small businesses in University Ward and across the city.
Andrew WRIGHT (Liberal Democrats)
'A long-term Norwich City season ticket holder, I have lived in Norwich for almost all my life, more than 30 years in University ward.
'Having left The City of Norwich School at the age of 16 I worked for accountants and solicitors before retiring from full-time employment to develop my interest in audio-visual production and event support, through which I have assisted local not-for-profit organisations and individuals starting new careers.
'I have a strong interest in social housing and for 15 years have served as treasurer on the Board of Umbrella Housing Group, which provides supported housing in Norwich.
'Through this involvement I am faced every day with the problems caused through the shortage of good rentable housing, and housing costs exacerbated by people with more than one 'home' driving up costs.'