Psephology

It’s been nearly a week, and I thought that I would look at the election results in Crawley in more detail, comparing with 2006 and 2004 (all out).

I am particularly interested in the overall trends, and I won’t produce the results for all 39 instances.

I’ll start Ward by Ward, and then go over the parties at the end.

Bewbush
2004 – 3 Labour, maj 193/216/275
2006 – Labour, maj 192
2007 – Labour, maj 374
A Safe Labour ward. The Labour vote is holding up or increasing. The Tories are slipping back a little. The Lib Dems are slipping back, and our Mr Khan is plugging away in last place

Broadfield N
2004 – 2 Labour, maj 99/261
2006 – Tory, maj 0
No elections in 2007. New ward in 2004. In theory a safe Labour area, was lost last year after a dead heat and drawing of lots

Broadfield S
2004 – 2 Tory, maj 22/52
2006 – Tory, maj 112
No elections in 2007 New ward in 2004. Surprisingly went Tory in 2004, and they strengthened their position last year, although the main losers in that were the Greens.

Furnace Green
2004 – 2 Tory, maj 155/318
2006 – Tory, maj 547
2007 – 2 Tory, maj 524/568
Tory ward, although was Labour until the late 1990s. Becoming much safer for the Tories now, although the Labour vote is holding, and the others are slipping back. The resignation of Mike Weatherley resulted in an extra seat coming up this year.

Gossops Green
2004 – 2 Tory, maj 33/47
2007 – Tory, maj 150
Marginal in 2004, when the Tories gained it. No real change in positions, Labour slightly down, Tories up a little since 2004, Lib Dems on pretty much the same.

Ifield
2004 – 3 Labour, maj 96/100/191
2006 – Tory, maj 21
2007 – Tory, maj 59
Marginal. Labour in 2004 by about 100 votes. Last year Tory gain by 21 votes. This year the Tories led by 59 votes. The only real noticeable trend other than that is that the BNP vote is going down

Langley Green
2004 – 3 Labour, maj 268/303/352
2006 – Labour, maj 406
2007 – Labour, maj 148
Safe Labour seat. Bucked the trend last year with an increased majority, only to become much closer this year. The Conservative candidate this year was a Sikh, and reportedly turnout among this group was high.

Maidenbower
2004 – 3 Tory, maj 682/744/779
2006 – Tory, maj 1132
2007 – Tory, maj 1215
Safe Tory seat. The Tory vote leapt up last year, and the Lib Dems overtook Labour. This year, Labour beat the Lib Dems to second place.

Northgate
2004 – 2 LibDem, maj 292/334
2006 – LibDem, maj 276
2007 – LibDem, maj 250
Liberal Democrat haven. Becoming less secure. Labour second, Tories third. The main trends are for the Lib Dems to bleed a few votes, the Tories challenged for second last year (14 votes behind), but have slipped back again. In 2006 a Socialist Labour candidate may have split the Labour vote. Turnout dipped overall this year.

Pound Hill N
2004 – 3 Tory, maj 778/795/831
2006 – Tory, maj 1280
2007 – Tory, maj 1001
Safe Tory. Labour second, and unusually the Lib Dems gained votes this year (perhaps because this time they had a local candidate, not a Seekings standing). The rest of the drop in Tory majority seems to be down to turnout, which makes sense as this was hardly a seat in question.

Pound Hill S and Worth
2004 – 3 Tory, maj 707/760/828
2006 – Tory, maj 1210
2007 – Tory, maj 1072
Safe Tory. Like PH North, the Tories walked it with a slight fall in turnout. The Lib Dems came second in 2006, but this year lost votes. Labour regained second place and were the only gainers.

Southgate
2004 – 3 Labour, maj 3/50/51
2006 – Tory, maj 198
2007 – Tory, maj 179
Marginal. The Tories won this seat in 2003 by 3 votes, probably helped by the Greens standing. Since 2004, the BNP have overtaken the Greens (but both of their votes are down quite a bit), with the Lib Dems in third. The Labour vote is consistently around 725. The Tories gained about 250 votes in 2006, and slipped back slightly this year.

Three Bridges
2004 – 1 Labour , 1 Tory
2007 – Tory, maj 356
A major Tory gain here. The Labour vote did not fall much, but the smaller parties lost more votes, with the Tories the only gainers. In 2004 the BNP stood and came 6th out of 8 (beating a Green and a Lib Dem). This year the English Democrats stood and narrowly beat the Green.

Tilgate
2004 – 2 Labour, maj 84/87
2007 – Tory, maj 355
Like Three Bridges, a major gain for the Tories. In fact, not only is the majority almost the same, but the Labour vote were exactly the same in both wards this year (549). However, unlike Three Bridges, Labour lost votes and the swing was much greater. In 2004 only the two main parties stood. In 2007 the Greens, Lib Dems and BNP put up candidates. The BNP came third here.

West Green
2004 – 2 Labour, maj 147/274
2006 – Labour, maj 117
Usually safe Labour. Turnout was low last year, and the Tory vote held up. The BNP came third, beating the Lib Dems and an Independent. No election this year.

Tories
A mixed year. In the core seats (those to the East of the London-Brighton line), they slipped back, but that is likely to be down to the inevitability of the results. In the seats they won last year, they pretty much held up. In what were thought to be the new ‘marginal’ seats, they achieved large swings. Whether they would have had the same if the seats had been contested last year, or whether the campaigning of this year also made a difference I can’t tell. The only odd trend was the boost to the vote in Langley Green, where I think communal voting came into play.

Labour
A bad year, but looking at it, not worse than last year. I am sure that there will be recriminations about Ifield, but there always are (even if they win). In the safe Tory and Labour wards, the general trend was up. In many places the vote held up, but needed to go up to win or hold seats. The main point of collapse was Tilgate. There, the vote was possibly split by other parties. Also, the Tory candidate was a prominent local church member, and had a lot of support from there. Our candidate was not local, and the branch lost key members in the past year (to old age).

Lib Dems
Overall, the trend is down. If it continues, Northgate could possibly come into play in future years. The only place where the vote increased was Pound Hill North, where the candidate was the only local standing.

Greens
In 2003 they arrived in force for the first time. The catalyst was the defection of Councillor Malcolm Liles from Labour, in protest at the Iraq war. In 2004 they put up quite a few candidates and achieved reasonably high votes. However, now they can’t beat the BNP or the English Democrats, let alone get close to any of the main parties. Most of their candidates are members of Malcolm’s family. Lowest poll was 35 in Northgate, highest was 185 in Furnace Green.

BNP
Still not to be discounted, their popularity is waning. Where they once got 400 votes, they get 300 or less. Where they stand for the first time, they do better (I think it’s the novelty factor), but they aren’t getting the over 15% share that they achieved last year. Ifield is their strongest ward, with 309 votes and 3rd place.

English Democrats
Brand new, arrived out of nowhere (or Harrow, it seems), and merely seem to have split the vote. They are made up of ex-UKIPers, which may mean that they stick around, but around here many of the UKIP members either drifted to the BNP or appear to have gone back to they Tory party. Beat the Greens, which seems to be no great challenge.

Far Left
No candidates from the Socialist Labour Party or Respect or any ‘Independant Socialists’ this year. Their absence may explain better results for Labour in Northgate and Bewbush.

Independents
Arshad Khan (officially of the ‘Justice Party’, but in no way connected to the Brum based party of that name, and a one-man-band in reality) wins the battle of the also-rans, beating Richard Symonds by 5 votes. Daniel Capstick-Bedson got 30 votes, the least of any candidate across the town. I think that Richard Symonds can take comfort from the splitting effect in Ifield, but overall the Independent vote is going down since 2004. I suspect that Khan’s increased vote in Bewbush may be a result of absence of Robin Burnham, or the presence of the Lib Dem candidate – who I hear is not a particularly popular gentleman.

Logo confusion

The Crawley News had a nice little report about the possibility of changing the Borough Council’s logo. A local historian has suggested the shield from the original Crest given to Crawley New Town back in 1957.

In the article, the News claims:

But the sheild, decorated acorns and crows, was abandoned in 1974 and has not been used since

This was on page 21.

On Page 22 is a picture of the Mayor, Sally Blake, presenting a mouse mat to a young child who had some good ideas on litter. The mouse mat is emblazoned with Crawley’s full coat of arms…

In case the News hadn’t noticed, the full coat of arms is also present in very large form hanging on the back wall of the Council Chamber. All mayoral letters are headed with it.

Oops, these local papers certainly know their subject, don’t they?

[edit – Seems that they do. They wrote to let me know that the original version of this article had the Mayor’s name as ‘Sally Green’. Cheers!]

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Ignorant and Misinformed Part 2

I thought that one central tenet of the Conservative Party approach was that whatever they are, they should be competent. After all, they represent the managerial classes, the business-owning classes, the people who run the economy, more than any other party in the UK.

So it must gall them when they look really stupid.

For example, this week’s Crawley News has a ‘leaked email’ containing the words of Brenda Burgess, Executive Member for Housing.

Michael Barrett, one of the Defend Council Housing campaigners had asked some fairly direct questions about the financial case for transfer in November. He’d been told that a response would come later. By the January 10th meeting, no answers had been forthcoming, and so he asked them again.

Brenda’s response was that answers would come later, which was not particularly well received.

The email, from the same day contains:

Mr B also said something about a blackhole for either revenue or capital. Any idea what he’s talking about? I was not prepared to ask him or answer any of his questions. No point. I just listen

I think (and I could be wrong) that the ‘blackhole’ that ‘Mr B’ referred to was the £12M deficit that the Tories kept telling us about (and continued to after they lost the vote). If the person in charge of the Housing Department and leading the transfer process doesn’t know what he’s talking about, that is massively worrying.

That she sees no point in dialogue with a member of the public speaks volumes. In May, the Tories won the council with, amongst others, a pledge to be ‘inclusive’ and create a new culture where ‘everyone is welcome’. Sure. As long as you don’t ask awkward questions though, eh?

Councillor Burgess has said she will not resign.

Housing update

In the end, the Council decision went like this:

The Tories wanted to defer a ballot, but keep the process going (and this would mean starting the process of working out the costs again and hoping that they were right this time).

Labour wanted to stop the process, and not simply keep trying, as it is clear that tenants will not vote in favour. The Lib Dems supported this, and so the policy went through 18-16.

Afterwards, Labour leader Brenda Smith asked for a cross-party group which could really look at the Housing Department and look for areas where it could make savings without affecting service levels or the cost to the tenant. The Tories refused. I suspect that the Lib Dems would have agreed, especially as this mirrors comments made by Marcella Head.

Ignorant and Misinformed?

Duncan Crow (who you know I love dearly) today responded to a report in the local press that he had called tenants ‘ignorant and misinformed’. Apparently that was the last thing in his mind.

The question that immediately came to mind was whether anyone else is ‘ignorant and misinformed’ about the Housing issue.

For example, the Audit Commission, the TPAS (tenant’s panel) and now the Government Office of the South East have refused to endorse the transfer documentation. Why? Well, it seems that when they said in June that the finances were critical and we needed to get shot of council houses, they overstated the facts a little. The costs have gone up to £60M and now back down to £25M. The ‘deficit’ of £11M that they claimed would force lots of service cuts and increased charges/rents would then turn into a cushion of about £24M.

Back in June, the Tories chose to restart the process and try to shoe-horn it into 9 months with a new set of figures. In November they were warned that this might fail but plowed on regardless. The Lib Dems swallowed the propaganda and concentrated on the finer detail, and so the process rolled on, in the face of opposition from tenants and the Labour group.

A DVD costing £30,000 was sent out, which only 24% of tenants watched and was rendered innacurate one week before it was posted by the U-Turn on increased charges for ‘Lifeline’. More time and money will have to be spent on tidying up the mess and starting yet again and the Tories can only bleat about how it’s not their fault and answer direct questions with tedious waffle or ‘we will get back to you’ (which was the answer they gave to the same question in November).

‘Ignorant and Misinformed’? Duncan is right, it isn’t the tenants is it? Perhaps it’s the Tory Executive, including one Cllr Crow of Furnace Green.

Oh, and on another topic, Duncan Crow has been accused of being a’roundabout robber‘ and the Observer helpfully depicted him as he’d look in a stripey jersey and black mask. Tsk Tsk, naughty Observer.

Crawley Tories lose their Head

Fresh from Skuds, and supplemented by the Lib Dems, the story of how Marcella Head has defected from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats, meaning that Crawley Borough Council now has no majority group:

Conservatives: 18
Labour: 16
Liberal Democrats: 3

The Lib Dems now hold the balance of power and could, if they wanted, cause the Tories to lose their cabinet seats. What will actually happen? Perhaps the main area of change will be on the Housing Transfer, but it’s a bit late to do much about that now.

Housing revisited

Thinking of the last two posts reminds me that a while ago I wrote a letter to the Crawley News which (as well as pointing out that Fastway was down to the Tories at Chichester) said that I thought tenants should vote against transfer as it was in their best interests.

Shortly after that, Duncan Crow challenged me in a reply to say how. I didn’t bother, mainly because Martin Ballard does a far better job. But here’s a few ideas:

  • Tenants will pay higher rents.

    Ok, rents go up every year. But Housing Associations generally charge more than councils.
  • Tenants will pay higher rents

    What is more, the transfer documents do not include anything to stop a revaluation of the stock by the new HA after transfer (this was one thing that the Council referred back to the Executive on Nov 22). A revaluation would probably lead to steep rises for at least some tenants. Would we be hugely surprised it it turned out to be most tenants? Shouldn’t the stock have already had a recent valuation as part of the process going on now?

  • Tenants will pay higher rents (so will home-owners)

    If they are also renting a garage. In fact, most garages are rented by homeowners. When I asked a flippant question from the gallery on Nov 22 about whether garage rents would rise to meet the levels of house rents (as the valuation of the average house is about £2000 and the valuation of the average garage is about £2600 by the latest figures), I was surprised to get the answer from Bob Lanzer that the rentable value per square foot for a garage is indeed apparently more for a garage than for a house.

  • Tenants will pay higher rents

    The way the finances work is this. A new Housing Association will be set up to buy the housing stock etc from the Council. They will pay £30M, or thereabouts. As a brand new entity, it will not have the cash, so will have to borrow at market rates to do that. So, immediately, the HA will not only inherit the liabilities that landlords have (sitting tenants, repairs & maintenance), as well as assume new promises made for them by the Council to replace over 4000 kitchens and 5000 boilers in the next five years, but they will also have a massive debt. Who pays the interest on that? Tenants do, through their rents. If interest rates increase, we can expect that to be passed on.

  • Did I mention that tenants might have to pay higher rents?

    Of course, I could be spouting fearmongering propaganda (but at least I’m not spending £30K of public money on DVDs to do it). After all, the council sets up a rent agreement with the new HA doesn’t it?

    Yes. But the National Audit Office has found that 17% of transfer associations had ripped up those agreements. Scottish Borders was supposed to limit increases to inflation plus 1%. But instead rents went up by 5.5% (inflation plus 3%). Increases in tranfer associations in Scotland are higher than increases in pre-existing Housing Associations, which are higher than for councils.

    And of course these agreements have a time limit. What happens when the time runs out? Well, look to Hastings, where the transferred tenants of ‘Ten-Sixty-Six’ found that the average rent went up by 10% in the year that the agreement lapsed.

  • Not to labour the point, but rents might increase

    Housing Associations are beholden to their ‘owners’ and creditors, not to the tenants. If there are financial problems, there’s no hefty bank account to help out (Crawley Borough Council is £100M in credit), and so the choice is to increase rents, to sell assets, to cut services or to borrow (which will of course mean higher interest payments).