CONTENDERS for next week’s by-election have been pounding the ground in Goldsworth East and West in a bid to drum up residents’ votes and win the nod to represent them on Woking Borough Council.
The two seats in the chamber became vacant in August when Liberal Democrat Councillors Denzil and Amanda Coulson stood down to go to pastures new, and are up for grabs on Thursday (October 8).
In a drive to defend their patch and rekindle confidence after May’s General Election, Lib Dems Tina Liddington (Goldsworth West) and James Sanderson (East) are aiming to win over voters locally and change the dynamic of the Conservative-heavy council.
Former Mayor Tina says she wants to fight the residents’ corner and believes ‘less is more’ when it comes to the council’s approach to local development. James hopes to defend the area and save money by preserving local services – a prime concern being plans to replace the Kestrel Way Recycling Centre with industrial units.
However, in the blue corner the Conservatives – who hold 24 of the current 36 seats – have their eyes set on more Tory glory in the form of candidates Chitra Rana (West) and first-timer Sonia Elbaraka (East), who they hope will tip the balance further.
Having retired from the British Army as a Gurkha Officer, Chitra is now keen to serve his community. Among other local issues, a fixed focus will be the rebuilding of the Lakeview Centre.
Sonia would also like to give something back. She says she will campaign to improve the character of the area and ensure that Goldsworth East residents benefit from the town centre’s regeneration.
Jay Butcher (East, below left) and Robina Shaheen (West) are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Councillors Mohammad Ilyas Raja and Tahir Aziz (Maybury & Sheerwater), who kick-started a Labour love-in at the Civic Offices after a decidedly itchy seven years without a red representative.
They say they are both passionate about local social issues and want to be the voice of constituents.
UKIP’s Tim Read (East) and Troy de Leon (West) are looking to make a purple party debut on the council by prioritising the preservation of green belt and Goldsworth Park Recreation Ground.
Looking ahead to May 2016, with boundary changes in place, all seats on the council will be up for grabs when an all-out election will be held for a reduced authority of 30 councillors.
Residents who have yet to complete and return their Household Enquiry Form can expect a knock on the door over the next few weeks, with callers reminding of their obligation as part of this year’s annual voter registration canvass.
The form asks for details of everyone over 16 living in each household. Residents are required by law to fill it in, otherwise they could lose their right to vote and face a fine of up to £1,000. So far 65 per cent of the borough has responded. Canvassers will be visiting every non-responding household and all forms must be returned by November 19.
If nothing has changed, households can confirm this online, by phone or text message. Residents should refer to their Household Enquiry Form for contact details.
Changes can be added online, or the form can be updated with the names and nationalities of individuals eligible to vote at the property, signed and returned to the council.
New electors must also register individually either online at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote or by filling in a Voter Registration Form. Even if households have registered online, they will still need to complete and return their Household Enquiry Form for their property.
Council Chief Executive and Electoral Registration Officer, Ray Morgan (below), said: “In May there will be elections across the borough under the new ward boundaries, which presents residents with an opportunity to shape the direction of Woking.
“There will also be Police & Crime Commissioner elections. Therefore, I would encourage all residents to check and return their forms or run the risk of not being eligible to vote. They can use the online or phone services to respond – it couldn’t be easier and should only take around five minutes.”
For further information on registering to vote, contact the Electoral Services Team on 01483 755855, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visitwoking.gov.uk.