Sawbridgeworth voters have choice of three candidates in Herts County Council contest and town council by-election
Voters in Sawbridgeworth go to the polls on Thursday (May 6) to elect not just their Herts county councillor and Herts police and crime commissioner, but also a new town councillor in a by-election.
All three main political parties are fielding candidates in the contest to represent the Sawbridgeworth division at County Hall in Hertford.
Conservative incumbent Eric Buckmaster is seeking re-election to serve a second four-year term but faces opposition from Liberal Democrat Joe Dumont, who represents Stanstead Abbotts on East Herts Council, and Labour’s Dawn Newell, who is also contesting the town council by-election.
In the previous election in 2017, Mr Buckmaster received 2,375 votes (61.8%). He had a majority of 1,843 over Lib Dem Julia Davies, who polled 532 votes (13.8%), with Labour's Sotirios Adamopoulos third with 454 (11.8%), UKIP's Michael Shaw fourth with 291 (7.6%) and the Green Party's Isabelle Robinson fifth on 188 (4.9%).
The Sawbridgeworth division also includes the Hunsdon and Stanstead Abbotts wards and part of the Much Hadham ward.
It is one of all 78 on HCC being contested. Elections are held every four years. Councillors do not receive a salary, but they get allowances and expenses to cover their costs.
The council is responsible for services across the county including education, social care for young and old, highways, fire, public safety and libraries.
The Conservatives have control of the council with 50 members; the Lib Dems have 18 and Labour 10. In 2017 the Tories got 46% of the vote, the Lib Dems 25%, Labour 21%, the Green Party and UKIP 4% each and others less than 1%.
Since it was formed in 1973 the Conservatives have had control for two-thirds of that time and for the whole of the last 20 years.
In the town council by-election, county council contender Ms Newell is vying for votes with Conservative Nathan Parsad and Lib Dem Emma Vandore. A vacancy arose after the resignation last year of Steve Jones.
Sawbridgeworth Town Council’s 12 members help keep the town ticking over, with the management of parks, car parks, footpaths, community centres and cemeteries included in its remit.
At the last election in May 2019, independent members made up the majority of town councillors with seven. The Conservatives held four seats and current mayor Cllr Annelise Furnace took a seat on the Lib Dem ticket.
On Thursday, residents will vote in one of four polling stations which county council chiefs have assured are safe places with regard to Covid-19. Voters are asked to wear face coverings, take their own pens or pencils and clean their hands on entry and when leaving the polling stations.
HERTFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL
ERIC BUCKMASTER Conservative
Eric Buckmaster is a full-time councillor and is the incumbent county council representative for Sawbridgeworth.
He has been a Sawbridgeworth town councillor since 2007 and is the executive member for wellbeing on East Herts Council.
The 65-year-old is married to district and town councillor Ruth Buckmaster and has four children and three grandchildren.
He is fully involved in the local community, with Sawbridgeworth Town Twinning, is a Rivers Heritage Site and Orchard volunteer, a board member of the Hailey Centre and gets involved in litter picking.
He loves history and music and has been very active in supporting local charities during the pandemic.
Eric’s district council portfolio includes parks and open spaces, leisure and the arts, including multi-million-pound investments in Bishop’s Stortford and Hertford Theatre. He launched social prescribing, which has helped many vulnerable elderly residents.
At county Eric is deputy executive member for highways and the environment.
He is known for being responsive to residents’ questions and tackling issues on their behalf.
JOSEPH DUMONT Liberal Democrat
East Herts district councillor for Stanstead Abbotts ward Joseph Dumont is standing for Sawbridgeworth at county council level with the Liberal Democrats in order “to deliver better for residents”.
“Covid-19 has highlighted the need for action, particularly on social mobility and the climate crisis,” he said. “There is no room for complacency. I want to do good by my community, finding practical solutions that improve people’s day-to-day lives.”
The 43-year-old lives in Stanstead Abbotts with his teenage sweetheart Michelle and their four boys, aged five to 15. As a business owner in the specialist recruitment sector, he employs around 50 people.
Brought up in Hertford, Joseph cites his father’s breast cancer diagnosis as the moment he started to get involved with politics. “I wanted to do something to raise awareness that the disease can also affect men so I signed up for a 60-mile cycle ride to raise money for Breast Cancer Care,” he said.
To encourage active cycling for work and pleasure, he’s keen to fund more footway repairs and join up cycle routes linking towns over the next four years. This would help Sawbridgeworth, where the lack of cycle routes means many families opt for pavements for safety, if they bike at all.
DAWN NEWELL Labour
Dawn Newell, 58, is retired, and was previously a service manager for adults with learning disabilities.
Married with grandchildren, she enjoys swimming at Leventhorpe pool twice a week and has worked in the local charity shop and cared for the elderly in their homes.
Born in Ware, Dawn went to school in Hertford and now lives in Sawbridgeworth, so has lived in this area all her life.
“I worked in Stanstead Abbotts as a service manager for a leading charitable organisation providing people with learning disabilities and mental health conditions or age-related needs a high-quality housing support and employment service,” she said.
Dawn went to Hertford Regional College in Ware later in life where she studied information technology, health and social care.
“I enjoy empowering vulnerable people, bringing communities together and building relationships to make a difference to disadvantaged people, giving them a voice,” she added.
SAWBRIDGEWORTH TOWN COUNCIL BY-ELECTION
DAWN NEWELL Labour
See above under Hertfordshire County Council for profile.
NATHAN PARSAD Conservative
Nathan, 30, lives in Sawbridgeworth with his partner, and is a director of a communications company in London which focuses on engaging with communities to shape local developments – which will stand him in good stead for working with residents as a town councillor.
He loves reading, running and travelling. He currently volunteers at local Covid-19 vaccination centres.
Nathan has an interest in education and supporting opportunities for young people, and is in the process of becoming a local school governor. He champions small businesses, having run a pub and a charity shop.
“There is a fantastic community spirit in Sawbridgeworth, which we’ve seen particularly over the past year with neighbours helping one another through the pandemic,” said Nathan. He wants to build on this sense of community to focus on local action which will improve Sawbridgeworth for all residents.
If elected, he wants to be a champion for Sawbridgeworth, taking forward ideas such as community ‘clean-up’ days, supporting the town’s small and independent local businesses, and improving its environment and green spaces.
EMMA VANDORE Liberal Democrat
Emma, 46, has lived in Sawbridgeworth for eight years with her partner Paul Kanabahita. She has a daughter and two stepsons.
Born and educated in Edinburgh, Emma worked as a journalist in Brussels and Paris before returning to the UK to study for a masters in town planning at UCL. She now combines both passions working as head of content for a global infrastructure firm.
A board member of the place brand initiative Discover Harlow, Emma has been instrumental in bringing the Essex Book Festival back to the town. She ran a creative writing group at Sawbridge Words, moving to Bishop’s Stortford after the bookshop’s sad demise. She is a fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, which aims to find practical solutions to social challenges.
She got to know Sawbridgeworth Town Council as a reporter for the Bishop's Stortford Independent and was inspired to stand for the Lib Dems to bring wider representation to the chamber.
Her top concerns include increased congestion caused by the new housing developments, and potential for increased fly-tipping and dumping as a result of the decision to charge for brown bin collections. She is honoured to have the support of the Green Party for the May 6 by-election.