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Archive - Thursday, 24 April 2003
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Year of controversy adds to intrigue
THE BNP, allegations of vote-rigging last year and a hung council -- May 1 promises to be anything but dull at the polls in Pendle.
The far right party has announced it will field four candidates -- in Vivary Bridge, Barrowford, Clover Hill and Coates -- following on from their success in Burnley last year.
The Lib Dems and Labour currently both have 19 seats, and among those up for re-election is Labour leader Azhar Ali -- who clung on to his role as leader by just one vote after last year's council was hung.
He is up against two independents, including, confusingly enough, another candidate also named Azar Ali, as well as Lib Dem and Conservative opposition.
Labour may face an uphill struggle to retain control after May 1 following a year of controversy, including the uproar over county council plans to close several residential care homes in the area and the setting of a high council tax.
Many people are also unhappy about the Government leading the country to war in Iraq.
The Socialist Alliance Against the War has three candidates. Siobhan Daniel will stand in Brierfield, Kevin Bean in Horsfield and Richard MacSween in Waterside.
Two councillors will also be elected for Boulsworth following the death earlier this year of Coun Jo Belbin.
This year's election follows a police investigation into allegations --none of which led to criminal charges -- of rigging the postal vote in last year's poll and the controversial election of Mohammed Iqbal as the borough's next mayor.
Among the big issues facing the electorate is the public inquiry into the proposed demolition of 162 homes in the Whitefield ward of Nelson, which finished last month with a decision from the secretary of state is expected in May.
The redevelopment in Nelson West was part of the council's 10-year plan to transform the area, in which many of the terrace houses are now empty and boarded up, creating better quality housing and more open spaces.
Also to the forefront are the proposed A56 by-pass through towns and villages including Colne and Foulridge, and the multi-million pound redevelopment of Nelson town centre.
Last year Labour's two seat lead over the Liberal Democrat's on Pendle Council disappeared when a closely fought battle resulted in the two main parties sharing the lead.
Both parties were left with 19 seats, leaving the future leadership of the council wide open to debate and leaders of each party unsure of what will happen in relation to the running of the council.
The most nail-biting ward count was undoubtedly Walverden in Nelson in which the voting was so close between Labour and the Liberal Democrats the returning officer, Stephen Barnes, declared eight recounts with the final results announced five hours after the count began.
In an election in which boundary changes saw the number of seats up for grabs cut from 51 to 49, Labour lost three seats, the Liberal Democrats lost one seat and the Tories won two seats.
Despite all the controversy, Mayor Pauline McCormick, Conservative councillor for Reedley ward, said many of the issues this year were likely to be the same as ever.
She added: "People tend to consider the same things each time when it comes to voting and those are street litter, law and order and the council tax. The fact that the BNP are standing in the borough this year is a worry but it's hard to gauge what the reaction to them will be."
Coun Kathleen Shore, Liberal Democrat candidate for Clover Hill ward, added: "Many of the people I have spoken to this year seem really concerned about the problem of juvenile nuisance and children playing in the street. They are also worried about litter."