I wish to raise the issue of the reality that on the Isle of Wight there are 33 Parish and Town Councils and in the 2021 May elections only 11 have contests in some or all of their wards and only Bembridge and Sandown have contests in all their wards. Ryde Town Council (16 seats) for the first time has 6 Wards out of 7, contested and therefore elections (21 candidates for 14 seats with only one ward with 2 candidates for two seats and therefore uncontested). This uncontested phenomenon is repeated across the majority of Island Parish and Town Councils.
The West Ward of Ventnor TC has the biggest competition with 12 candidates for 6 places. At the other end of the scale in Seaview and Nettlestone Parish Council only 4 people came forward for 10 places.
This creates a real problem as there are 22 IW Parish and Town Council that possibly do not meet the Parish (General Power of Competence) (Prescribed Conditions) Order 2012. This is Government regulation on the governance and competence of Town and Parish Councils which state: “The number of members of the council that have been declared to be elected, whether at ordinary elections or at a by-election is equal to or greater than two-thirds of the total number of members of the council;” This simply can be interpreted that non-elections and uncontested T & P council seats put these 22 councils in breach of competency.
Ryde Town Council has benefited from the pro-activism of the community in encouraging a movement at grass-roots level to encourage not only new candidates but ordinary residents not affiliated to any national political party to stand. This has resulted in Ryde Town Council for the first time in its history to trigger elections in 6 of its 7 wards and avoid having unfilled places that result in co-option post-election. In 2017, only 4 Ryde Wards were contested and one seat with no candidate and had 15 councillors for 16 places. In 2021, without entirely new faces there would not be 21 candidates in Ryde for 14 places in contested seats but 14 uncontested candidates. Ryde Town Council would have been in breach of rules of competence and not tackle the issues in the Town. The other good news that it is likely more women will be on the Council compared to only 4 women to 12 men in the last 4 years and the average of age of 72, could come down to 50 with more younger candidates standing this time.
We have to wait and see the reality of the 22 Island T & P Councils such as Seaview & Nettlestone and how they tackle the lack of people standing. Only a real campaign will encourage new faces and avoid decay and regulated incompetence. Ryde Town Council with full certified competency can borrow, gain investment, and grow for the benefit of the community and its residents. We need such a movement of nurturing our future candidates on the Isle of Wight so all our Parish and Town and Community Councils can flourish and take on the issues and realities of a post-Covid world.