With the publication of the official lists of nominated candidates for the ninety-eight seats on Wiltshire Council, it is now confirmed that there are two candidates for each of the two village seats of the Marlborough Area;
ALDBOURNE & RAMSBURY
Chris Humphries – Independent.
James Sheppard – Conservative Party.
Matthew Lee – Labour Party.
Jemima Milton – Conservative Party.
Challenging to retain the Aldbourne and Ramsbury seat for the Conservatives is local farmer James Sheppard. In the first elections for the Wiltshire unitary council in 2009, with Conservative candidates selected for both the Aldbourne & Ramsbury and West Selkley seats, Mr Sheppard stood as an Independent in the West Selkley contest – coming third behind the Conservative (Jemima Milton) and the Lib Dems.
Why has he decided this time to stand as a Conservative? “Over the last four years I’ve been very impressed with Jane Scott – she’s taken some very difficult decisions. She’s brought the district and the county councils together – I think it’s worked very well. The savings have been passed back to the people – with no Council Tax rises.”
“She does really care about what goes one and has done a really, really good job.”
Jane Scott is a fellow farmer – she starts her lambing this week. When Marlborough News Online visited James’ Poulton Farm above Minal, his family was concentrating fully on their lambing shed – they were about a third of the way through the one hundred and fifty ewes. All the ewes and lambs were inside away from the biting winds and frosts.
“I’ve realised that if you want to get things done you have to be in the party that’s running the Council.” In addition, of course, there has to be a vacancy: the current Councillor, Chris Humphries, has left the Conservative party. James sees his selection as a ‘once in a lifetime chance’ to represent his area.
He knows a lot about the area: his family have lived in it since the 1700s. He was born in Savernake Hospital, went to school first at St Michael’s in Aldbourne, then to St John’s – and after college went straight into farming.
Preparing for the election campaign, James has had to cut back a little on his other responsibilities. He is standing down from the Aldbourne Memorial Hall committee – which hurts as his great grandfather helped build it. He’s doing less committee work for the Aldbourne Band of which he is currently Chairman – he’s very proud of the brass band’s long history and record.
He will, however, continue his work with the National Farmers’ Union – he is Chairman of the Marlborough NFU and Deputy Chair of Wiltshire NFU. He believes there are many issues that the NFU and the Council can work on together, especially encouraging business and the environment.
James is Vice-Chair of the newly formed Swindon and Wiltshire Local Nature Partnership which aims to bring all parties together to manage the environment and respond to future environmental challenges.
Is he too busy with the farm – a mix of arable and sheep – and his other interests to take on a Councillor’s role? “Being self-employed you can juggle times. I think the Council needs people who have jobs.”
The family – wife Deborah and daughters Joanna and Rosie – have talked it all through and are right behind him. There’s no doubt in his mind: “If you want something done”, the country saying goes, “ask a busy person.”
He sees planning policy as key to the future in terms of democracy, business and the environment: “You have to enable businesses to grow and stay in the area – and provide jobs for people in their own area. It’s allowing councils and local people, with their local knowledge, to decide the directions they want to go in.”
“And we live in a beautiful countryside that we must keep safe.”
Farming is a business that has been called on by governments to diversify. The Sheppards have diversified with a holiday lodge and a thriving bed and breakfast business.
He is worried about the Marlborough Area Board. He likes the policy of having area boards but: “I feel that this board needs to evolve and maybe some changes are needed”. If elected he wants to visit other Area Boards that really do have a community feel and that do work.
“This Board needs new aims and ambitions. If elected I would do my best to enable the dynamic of the new board to work better.”
His parting words were that his views are really not that important – what he wants to do is represent all the people in the Aldbourne and Ramsbury area.
Within the next few days Marlborough News Online will be interviewing Chris Humphries about his candidacy.
In the other rural Marlborough Area constituency, Jemima Milton is facing Labour Party candidate Matthew Lee. In the first Wiltshire unitary election in 2009 Mrs Milton faced four rivals: UKIP, a Liberal Democrat, Labour party and, as we have seen, James Sheppard standing as an Independent. She won with 49.7 per cent of the votes.
During the last four years Mrs Milton has specialised in the Council’s work on adult care – and on health and social care issues generally. She has been working on the shadow Health and Wellbeing Board – a committee of the Council being established as part of the Government’s NHS restructuring, which will set strategic plans for health and social care policies within the county.
She is well known in the area and has regularly attended meetings of the Marlborough Area Board.
She told Marlborough News Online that the Conservatives “Will continue to run Wiltshire Council as an efficient, customer focused business.” And she is clear about her intentions, if elected: “I’ll work with the local community to make sure their voice is heard.”
Marlborough News Online is contacting Matthew Lee for his comments on the election.
The campaign: candidates have only a few days campaigning before the day when postal votes arrive in people’s homes. There are 580,000 registered postal voters in Wiltshire and records show that about seventy-five per cent of them are likely to vote.
Before the deadline for candidates to withdraw from the elections, it looks as though Conservative candidates will be unopposed in six of the ninety-eight unitary council seats.