The Oundle Town Council is currently undergoing another election cycle. During the last full election, which coincided with the 2015 general election, 11 candidates undertook the nomination process and all 11 candidates were declared ‘duly elected Parish Cllrs for Oundle’ by the Returning Officer of East Northamptonshire on 10 April 2015. Five of these elected candidates are currently serving a four year term on the council.
Recent resignations, however, left nine vacancies open and nominations were due to be completed and submitted to the East Northamptonshire Council office by 7 April. While 12 nomination papers were received, 11 of these were deemed invalid. They were found to have incorrect electoral numbers or incomplete declarations of eligibility, and so only one nomination remained that was valid.
Duncan Butler was elected uncontested to join the council.
With the exception of one year, there have been by-elections every year in Oundle since 2007. The last full election was in 2015. Given the outcome of the most recent by-election, the next by-election will be held on July 28, 2016.
Election costs are carried by the town, and include a fee for the returning officer, hire of polling stations and people to staff them, counting agents and publication of notices. The ENC anticipates the cost of an Oundle election to be in the region of £6000 to £7000.
Towns and parishes have great difficulty attracting volunteers to serve on their councils. Out of the 59 town and parish full elections in East Northamptonshire in 2015, 44 were uncontested, including Oundle. There were three vacancies after the elections in Oundle in 2015, which were later filled by co-option. However, the councillors selected by co-option have since resigned.
The validity of unopposed elected councillors has been questioned in recent months. David Oliver, the Chief Executive of East Northamptonshire Council, recently wrote to the Chronicle about this issue.
‘Within the statutory framework, there is no reference to the merits of a candidate elected unopposed or due to lack of candidates to contest an election as opposed to one subject to a vote. A candidate elected unopposed cannot be deemed unworthy of their elected status because others have failed to be nominated in the electoral process.’
By Isabella Bradstock – 11 May 2016