Almost 378 years since the first battle of Marston Moor, it becomes the scene of another struggle for people’s power as Harrogate and District Green Party fights for the democratic rights of residents.
On 26 January 2022, following many years of selfless service to his beloved community of Marston Moor, the last four years being as District Councillor, Norman Waller sadly died following a long battle with cancer.
Green Party Campaigns Co-ordinator Tamsin Worrel said:
This complete affront to local democracy appears to be any excuse for not holding an election and plays right into the hands of the Conservative party.
In the complete absence of the Conservatives showing any interest in Marston Moor, Arnold Warneken, the Green Party candidate and close personal friend of the late Councillor Waller, has been working hard in the community for the last four years and will continue to do so.
Harrogate Borough have said they have taken legal advice and consulted with the Association of Electoral Administrators, and cannot see any way forward for the election to fill the vacancy at Marston Moor ward.
Following Councillor Waller’s death, Harrogate & District Green Party approached Harrogate Borough Council to enquire about a by-election. HBC informed us that one would take place alongside the new Divisional elections on 5 May 2022 because the seat had become vacant within six months of another election. HBC later confirmed this via a public notice on its website published on 15th February 2022.
On 9 March 2022, Harrogate & District Green Party learned that HBC had decided not to run the Marston Moor by-election from an unofficial source. No formal notice to interested parties and no communication to the residents of Marston Moor, who will now be effectively unrepresented until May 2023.
The Council argue this is due to an anomaly between the North Yorkshire Structural Changes Order and the Local Government Act 1972.
This despite a similar situation in Selby resulting in a recent by-election and, somewhat unbelievably, HBC themselves calling a by-election only last week at Wathvale following a recent resignation. Despite repeated requests from Harrogate & District Green Party, the Council appears determined not to hold the by-election for Marston Moor, having very belatedly released a statement on its website.
The Green Party has termed it “an outrageous affront to local democracy leaves us asking just who is working for whom?” and they believe the local Conservative party is so afraid of that it appears they would rather the residents of Marston Moor go unrepresented for over 12-months rather than risk defeat to a hugely popular Green Party candidate who works hard for the community all year round?
In another effort to preserve local democracy, the Green Party has today tabled two questions in the House of Lords, requesting provision be made for the Marston Moor by-election. We are also contacting our two local MP’s, Andrew Jones and Nigel Adams, to request them to take the matter up with legislators.”
In a statement, Harrogate Borough Council have said:
The North Yorkshire Structural Changes Order, which enables local government re-organisation in North Yorkshire to take place, came into force on 18 March and means that we are no longer able to run an election for the vacant seat in Marston Moor. The reasons why are set out below;
When a councillor dies, resigns or is disqualified from being a councillor then their seat on the council becomes vacant and what is known as a casual vacancy arises. When this happens we must act in accordance with the law.
At the time the vacant seat arose in Marston Moor an election for that seat, and all other seats at Harrogate Borough Council was scheduled to take place on 5 May. This being the date when all councillors would have retired and therefore what is known as an ‘ordinary election’ taking place. As a matter of law when a casual vacancy arises within six months of the date for the ‘ordinary election’, then the casual vacancy is to be filled at the next ‘ordinary election’. For this reason, a notice of vacancy stating the election for Marston Moor would be on 5 May was published.
However, local government reorganisation and the Structural Changes Order has changed this by cancelling the Harrogate Borough Council ordinary elections on 5 May and extending all serving Harrogate Borough Council members’ term of office until 1 April 2023 at which point Harrogate Borough Council will be dissolved as part of unitary re-organisation.
Having taken legal advice and consulted with the Association of Electoral Administrators we cannot see any way forward for the election to fill the vacancy at Marston Moor ward.
In the absence of an ability to run a by-election for Marston Moor ward we have been looking at how we manage contact with residents in the area.
At a parish council and county council level, the representatives for the area will be determined as a result of the upcoming election process
At a district level, Councillor Andrew Paraskos – who currently represents the neighbouring ward of Spofforth with Lower Wharfedale – will act on behalf of residents (alongside the newly elected county council and parish councillors) in the Marston Moor ward until 1 April 2023.