Essex County Council elections: Five-horse races in Tory-held Stansted, Dunmow, Saffron Walden and Thaxted as Uttlesford's ruling party R4U fields candidates
Voters in part of Stansted will be electing not only their Essex county councillor and their county police, fire and crime commissioner but also a parish councillor when they go to the polls on Thursday (May 6).
Stansted is one of four Essex County Council divisions in Uttlesford district: the others are Dunmow, Saffron Walden and Thaxted.
All four are held by the Conservatives, who have controlled the county council since 1997.
Of the 75 seats at County Hall in Chelsmford, they have 51, the Liberal Democrats 8, Labour 6, Independents 6, the Green Party 1 and Loughton Residents’ Association 1. There are two vacancies.
The Tory incumbents in Stansted, Dunmow, Saffron Walden and Thaxted are all seeking re-election.
There are five-horse races in all four divisions as Residents for Uttlesford (R4U), the ruling party at Uttlesford District Council (UDC), is fielding candidates against the Conservatives, Lib Dems, Labour and Greens.
In the 2013 ECC election in Saffron Walden, current UDC and R4U leader John Lodge, standing then as an Independent, beat sitting Conservative Robert Chambers by just 48 votes, but last time around, in 2017, John Moran regained Walden for the Tories, defeating R4U's Heather Asker by 267.
R4U also finished second in Dunmow four years ago and third in Stansted behind Conservative victor Ray Gooding – who is seeking a fifth term as county councillor, having first been elected 16 years ago – and Lib Dem Melvin Caton. They did not field a candidate in Thaxted.
The county council is responsible for services across Essex including education, social care for young and old, highways, public safety and libraries.
In Stansted North, residents can also elect a new member of Stansted Parish Council, following the departure last year of Labour's Alfred Miti, prompting a by-election to be called.
The three candidates to replace him are: Tory Paul Davies, Labour’s Sanjukta Ghosh and Lib Dem Thomas Smith.
The parish council currently has only 11 of its 14 seats filled. Labour duo Tom Van de Bilt and Jonathan Harding stepped down earlier this year due to pressure of work and moving out of the area respectively. No by-election was called for after Mr Harding resigned. It is not yet known whether one will be called to replace Mr Van de Bilt.
Stansted is one of seven parish or town councils in Uttlesford that have vacancies. Residents of Saffron Walden, Clavering, Debden, Newport, Takeley and The Sampfords will also be tasked on Thursday with electing town or parish councillors alongside their Essex county councillors.
Villagers in Quendon, Rickling and Newport also have a referendum on their Local Neighbourhood Plan to vote on, while the deferred election of a police, fire and crime commissioner for Essex will take place following last year’s postponement.
ESSEX COUNTY COUNCIL Stansted division
BIANCA DONALD Residents for Uttlesford (R4U)
Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) candidate for the Stansted division Bianca Donald is a school teacher.
She volunteers and plays for Bishop’s Stortford Netball Club and describes herself as a huge animal lover who has three rescue cats and enjoys roaming the Essex countryside with her two dogs.
In her manifesto, Bianca says: “I’ve taught in Uttlesford schools since 2004 and so understand local parents’ frustration as the current county councillor for Stansted, who is responsible for education at ECC [Essex County Council], has slashed school budgets and eradicated choice.
“ECC taxes Uttlesford residents £50m a year, but more than 70% of residents rate them as failing on highways, schools and floods. We need change.
“If elected, I will hold them to prioritise our highways; make developers pay; restore education choice; make school buses safe again; focus on our environment; make good on social care commitments; protect Stansted library; and provide a better funding deal for Uttlesford.”
DEBRA GOLD Green Party
Green Party candidate Debra Gold, 60, is a barrister in family law based in chambers in Cambridge.
Married to Glyn Baker, she has been a Clavering resident for 26 years. She was formerly a parent governor of Clavering Primary School and both her children, Louise and Sam, attended local state schools.
Currently learning to speak French, Debra also enjoys running, swimming and walking their dog, Henry.
She campaigned for the Greens in the last General Election.
Debra says: “The environment must be central to all our decision-making. Covid has had a devastating impact on parts of our community and we need to prioritise rebuilding the local economy in a sustainable way, focusing on the social good.
“Our community facilities such as day centres and youth centres need to be prioritised and public transport must be improved so that all areas have a regular bus or train service.
“Our streets need to be made safer for cyclists and pedestrians and children need to be able to walk and cycle to school.
“Our green spaces needs to be preserved and improved so we all have access to parks and recreation grounds. We need more sustainable and affordable housing.”
*RAY GOODING Conservative
Conservative Ray Gooding is a consultant engineer by profession and has been senior partner of a consultancy firm for nearly 30 years.
He has lived in Birchanger for 22 years with his wife and they have a daughter and a grandson.
A keen walker and cyclist, he also enjoys playing flamenco and jazz guitar.
He serves as chair of governors at a local primary school and is also governor at an independent school in Redbridge.
He has been the elected Essex County Council member for Stansted since 2005 and during that time has held a number of roles, including chair of the West Essex Children’s Partnership Board; chair of the Active Essex Foundation; chair of Essex Housing LLP; and is the current cabinet member for children’s services and for education and skills.
If re-elected for Stansted, he said: “I will ensure an exciting future that will enable all young people to achieve their full potential; build an Essex economy that will support the current and future generations; support the findings of the Essex Climate Change Commission; challenge unwanted and unregulated housing development; and develop passenger transport as a viable alternative to cars in rural areas.”
AYUB KHAN Liberal Democrat
Liberal Democrat Ayub Khan is chief executive of a public advice service charity who is married with two children and two grandchildren.
He lives in Stansted and currently represents Stansted South and Birchanger on Uttlesford District Council. He is also a Stansted parish councillor.
He serves as trustee and vice-chair of a sixth form college and trustee of a care home charity. His hobbies include keeping fit.
Vying to be elected for Essex County Council’s Stansted division, he said: “After 16 years of Conservative inaction, we need a more responsive, experienced and credible councillor to represent the Stansted division.
“I live in Stansted and I’m running to help deliver a fairer, greener and more caring Essex.
“Vital education, library and care services must be properly funded. I want greater local action on environmental protection and against climate change, and I want Essex to finally fix our roads.
“Voting for me will stop Conservative plans for £46m of further unspecified budget cuts.
“Don’t put up with the same old tired approach. Make that change and vote for me, Ayub Khan, as your next county councillor.”
SAMANTHA NAIK Labour
Labour candidate Samantha Naik is a non-practising solicitor with many years’ experience in civil service, local authority and private practice. She has worked in retail and was a self-employed fitness instructor.
Currently living in Newport with partner Andrew Sampson and her two stepchildren, she volunteers at a local charity, is a contributor to Uttlesford’s Local Plan consultation and the district’s Race Equality Listening Events.
She enjoys writing a blog, reading history books, baking cookies, veganism and art classes and is a member of Newport Parish Council.
In her manifesto she lists a children’s charter for Essex and reducing school exclusions to zero among her priorities.
Listing other targets, she said: “More mental health services for children; I endorse NSPCC’s call for enhanced services for children living with domestic abuse.
“An anti-poverty strategy including fair wages for all; I want Department for Work and Pensions ‘pop up’ job centres on the high streets of all our towns, to reduce the need for long expensive journeys by benefit claimants.
“I will ensure special educational needs and disabled people have better services. For older residents, free falls prevention classes.
“Green affordable bus services from 6am to midnight to counter the climate emergency.”
The candidates for the three other Essex County Council divisions in Uttlesford district are...
- Geoff Bagnall (R4U)
- *Susan Barker (Con)
- Gerard Darcy (Lab)
- Lorraine Flawn (Lib Dem)
- Madeline Radford (Green)
- Simon Ede (Lib Dem)
- Paul Gadd (R4U)
- Edward Gildea (Green)
- *John Moran (Con)
- Andrew Sampson (Lab)
- Paul Allington (Green)
- Martin Foley (R4U)
- Richard Silcock (Lib Dem)
- *Simon Walsh (Con)
- Alex Young (Lab)
* denotes sitting councillor