Candidates battle for control of Ecclesfield Parish Council after formal review

A new group of independent candidates are going up against Labour and the Liberal Democrats for control of Ecclesfield Parish Council, months after a comprehensive review of the way it was run.

This year ten candidates are running under the new Ecclesfield Parish Independent Councillors (EPIC) banner across four of the six wards.

They are registered as a minor party (a smaller grouping that can only contest parish council elections), which doesn’t think party politics should be relevant at parish level.

But Lib Dem candidate and former Lord Mayor of Sheffield, Councillor Graham Oxley, said this was irrelevant as his party’s candidates were not subject to a whip anyway.

Ecclesfield Parish Council underwent a formal review of governance at the end of 2018 to investigate issues with how the council was run and suggest improvements.

The review was carried out by Hoey Ainscough Ltd, a local governance consultancy firm, and its recommendations covered the role of councillors, the clerk and other staff, along with other issues such as grants and social media policy.

For many candidates, implementing these recommendations is a top priority, along with better community engagement.

EPIC candidate Tracy Grantham is running in the election for the first time and said: “I was getting so frustrated with what was going on and I thought something has got to change here.

“One of the most important things for us is going to be openness and transparency.”

Coun David Ogle and Coun Gary Lakin are seeking re-election under EPIC

They have plans to livestream council meetings on Facebook, and rotate meetings around different areas in the parish to improve accessibility, one of the Hoey report recommendations.

Lib Dem councillor John Housley said he was committed to setting up a Neighbourhood Plan for improving the area, increasing volunteer groups, tackling traffic congestion in Chapeltown and improving bus links to Meadowhall.

He said: “I want to improve the area and get people to come into Chapeltown, and also to get people to use Chapeltown more.”

Coun Housley also said he was keen to act on the Hoey report, and Coun Oxley said: “The council has decided to implement those recommendations, and we’ve already started implementing them.”

Councillors report that progress has been hindered by the resignation of the council clerk in February, following a string of clerk resignations in 2018.

Ms Grantham said: “It cost a lot of taxpayers’ money to do that report. If it’s not worth the paper it’s written on because people aren’t going to take on board the recommendations, I find that a bit damning really.”

Around 40,000 residents across Ecclesfield, Chapeltown, High Green and Grenoside pay a precept as part of their council tax to fund the council.

Parishioners collectively paid £156,000 in 2018/19 as a precept to fund the parish council.

Councillor David Ogle, 51, is seeking re-election under the EPIC banner in the High Green ward, having been the first independent candidate to be elected to the parish council. He said: “You’re paying into this and you might as well throw your money away in the street, the way it’s set up at the moment.

“£8 out of every tenner is spent on running itself and we need to change this.”

Voting takes place on Thursday, with results announced during the day on Friday.