10:51am Thursday 11th April 2013
A crucial Pembrokeshire County Council by-election is taking place today (Thursday).
Four candidates are fighting it out for the Burton electoral division.
The outcome will be keenly watched in County Hall as the ruling Independent Plus group's majority is currently on a knife-edge.
Leader Jamie Adams' group currently has 30 members compared to 29 of the combined opposition.
There are four candidates standing: · Jon Harvey of 21 Merlins Cross, Pembroke (Independent) · Robin Howells, The Willows, 5, New Wells Road, Hill Mountain, Houghton (Labour) · Rob Summons,19 West Street, Rosemarket (Independent Plus Group) · Robin Wilson, Swn-Y-Gwynt, Ashdale Lane, Llangwm (Conservative) (see full profiles below).
The polling stations at Burton Jubilee Hall in Houghton and at Rosemarket village hall will be open between 7 am and 10 pm. The number of people eligible to vote is 1,489.
The count will take place immediately after polls close.
The vacancy arose following the retirement on 1st March of County Councillor David Wildman who was the Member for Burton and Cabinet Member for Health; Well-Being and the Voluntary Sector.
* The Western Telegraph will have a reporter at the count this evening and the winner will be announced on www.westerntelegraph.co.uk as soon as it is declared.
Burton by-election candidates:
Jon Harvey from Pembroke is standing as an independent candidate and has pledged to remain 'truly' independent if elected.
Mr Harvey, a charted town planner, has worked in the public and private sector and is also a Pembroke town councillor.
He has worked with community groups and is a keen environmentalist, stating he is "seeking to preserve all that is good about Pembrokeshire and improving upon those areas that are currently lacking".
Mr Harvey is calling on voters to "break the strangle hold" of the Independent Plus Group, citing the damning reports on child safeguarding and education as "shocking indictments on the current administration".
"My view is that the current control of the county council by the IPG has resulted in many failings, notably the child protection and education issues. This by-election is crucial and the IPG could lose their overall majority and bring to an end the 'jobs for the boys' allocation of cabinet posts and representatives on outside bodies. These should be allocated on merit and experience from all councillors.
"As has been so often stated by the electorate of Pembrokeshire 'there is no place for party politics in local government' and yet many current councillors who campaigned as Independents joined the IPG within hours of being elected, thereby effectively conning those that voted for them in the belief that they were true independents," he added.
Mr Harvey says he will not have to 'toe the party line' and is not afraid to ask difficult questions and seek out answers.
"I believe in open, transparent and accountable local government. Elected councillors and the officers of the county council are here to serve the residents of the county and be accountable to them not to any political grouping and I shall work tirelessly to ensure this happens if I am fortunate enough to be elected," sad Mr Harvey.
Labour's candidate for the Burton by-election is Robin Howells, a resident of Hill Mountain all his life, who is standing to see changes made to how the council is currently managed.
Mr Howells has been a civil servant for the Ministry of Justice at Haverfordwest Law Courts for nearly 25 years.
He has had an interest in local politics for many years, as well as being involved with the Welsh Labour Party, and sees the by-election as an opportunity to resolve issues in the county identified by him and brought to his attention by residents, including cuts to services and the recent pay grading review.
Mr Howells said: "I have decided to stand as a Labour county councillor for Burton and Rosemarket in the forthcoming election because I believe change is needed in the way the county council is currently managed and how it manages the services that it provides to the community with the recent scandal over children and education services being a good example of this, and of course, the pay and grading review of council staff."
Mr Howells has been involved with local charities and voluntary work since the 1980s, he is a trustee of Pembrokeshire MIND, volunteered for the Samaritans and St John Ambulance and is a supporter of the Bevan Foundation and the Co-operative Community Fund.
"I have had a long history of voluntary work which I enjoy and I believe that I am honest, approachable, trustworthy and reliable which is everything that is needed for a county councillor, together with my belief that by the strength of our common endeavour we can achieve more than we achieve alone and can live in a spirit of tolerance and mutual respect for all members of our community," he added.
As he knocks on the doors of residents in the area Mr Howells said that a recurring theme is what the future holds for services as well as traffic concerns in the Burton and Rosemarket area which have yet to be resolved.
He also states that he will be a 'visible' representative and will make regular visits to the ward to speak to people.
"This is quite a crucial one as far as the balance of power goes and now is the time to change it if possible," added Mr Howells.
INDEPENDENT PLUS GROUP
Well known in the Haverfordwest sports world and beyond, Rob Summons, is standing as candidate for the ruling Independent Plus Group - one of, if not the first, to state this intention publicly before a vote.
The Haverfordwest County AFC chairman from Rosemarket and former policeman has the backing of the former ward councillor David Wildman who stood down last month, prompting the by-election vote on April 11th.
Mr Summons makes clear his intention to join the Independent Plus Group at County Hall if elected but pledges to be 'truly independent in matters that would affect my constituents'.
"The Independent Plus Group does not have a 'whip' as other political parties do," he said.
"However, on matters that affect our county overall it is important that there is a strong collective voice. The Independent Plus Group on Pembrokeshire County Council has continually proved to be one of the best performing authorities in Wales.
"At the same time they have managed to keep your council tax, consistently, the lowest in Wales, without reduction in services and indeed no redundancies as with other authorities in these hard economic times.
"The Independent Plus Group have served Pembrokeshire well and I hope that it can continue and with your support I can be a part of that process 'working for you' and our county.
"I have spoken at length with Mr David Wildman in relation to this matter. His experience and advice has led me to the decision I have made," he said.
On his campaign leaflets Mr Summons includes a comment from Mr Wildman, which states: "I have asked Rob Summons, known to many of you and born and bred in Rosemarket, to stand as a candidate in the by-election to be held in April. I know that he will faithfully support you and I hope that you will give him you support. Knowing him as I do I am certain he will not let you down."
Standing for the Welsh Conservative party is Llangwm resident Robin Wilson who says he is not a 'career politician' but a 'normal' resident of the ward for 22 years.
Mr Wilson may be known to some through his business associations with James Williams of Narberth and now Wilson Wines.
"I hold many of the views of a traditional conservative - those of fairness, independence, less state interference and low taxation. Following the previous county councillor's decision to retire, I have decided to put myself forward as a candidate.
"I feel that this is the right time in my life to offer something back to society. I would like to contribute to our local community, to represent the people that live in this ward. Living here myself, I understand the needs of us, the residents, and would like to be given the opportunity to help resolve some of the complex issues involved," said Mr Wilson.
He adds that he intends to listen carefully to residents and deal with issues raised with a calm and reasoned approach.
"I am someone who is not afraid to stand up for us, the residents, because I believe in what is right and fair," he added.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group