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Last Updated: Monday, 30 April 2007, 13:23 GMT 14:23 UK
BNP seat in 'non-political' town
By Dickon Hooper
BBC News

Corsham
There are 20 seats up for grabs in five wards
The BNP has its first councillor in the South West - and no votes have yet been cast.

Michael Simpkins, 47, is the new councillor for the Rudloe ward of Corsham Town Council, after no other contenders put themselves forward.

"I'm very pleased and looking forward to it," the married father-of-two said.

Sitting in north Wiltshire and just east of Bath, Corsham has a growing population of more than 12,000 residents.

Its council has historically been "non-political", with decisions taken in the best interests of the town.

Party politics is even banned in the chamber.

Indeed, less than half of the 24 candidates (for the 20 seats) declared a political allegiance on the nomination papers: four for Labour, three for the BNP and two Lib Dem.

We will have to wait and see how he acts
Labour candidate Chris Lynch

The rest described themselves as independent, or left the box blank.

Mr Simpkins said he would follow in this tradition.

"Party politics don't come into it, he said.

"I am a local councillor and it is important to listen to what people want."

High parking charges and anti-social behaviour top this list, he insisted.

Other candidates cited the improvement of the leisure centre, reopening the railway station and the growing population.

This harmony is designed to work to everyone's advantage, but some candidates did express concern about how Mr Simpkins had been elected unopposed.

'Ignored and frustrated'

Labour candidate for the Pickwick ward, Chris Lynch said: "It is unfortunate when there is not more than one candidate. We will have to wait and see how he acts.

"It is up to him and up to the electors in four years' time."

Roy Jackson, Lib Dem candidate for Pickwick, said the election was a "surprise".

"One woman put in a nomination against him - but she is standing somewhere else now."

Although candidates can put themselves up for election in two wards, they can only stand in one.

"He was given a free ride. It is always good to see an election," Mr Jackson added.

But Allan Bosley, who is standing as an independent in Pickwick, said: "Anyone can stand and everyone has a right to stand."

Mr Bosley, who is also council chairman, said the authority only has a statutory duty to maintain a public cemetery and listen to requests for allotments.

Listening to what people want and reflecting it back up the chain is part of the council's duty.

The election of a BNP councillor shows people are not being listened to, Mr Bosley said.

My aim is to prove the BNP is not the two-headed monster people think it is
Michael Simpkins

"There are a range of views expressed here like everywhere. It tells me people feel ignored, particularly by central government... and frustrated."

Like Roy Jackson, Mr Bosley did not think the BNP councillor would change how the council was run.

And Dick Tonge, leader of the Conservative group in north Wiltshire, added: "The BNP will not exercise undue influence as they will be lone souls on a large council."

But the BNP is "growing" in Wiltshire, said Mr Simpkins, an ex-RAF policeman.

It is fronting three candidates in Corsham, two in Calne and four in the North Wiltshire District Council elections.

"We've got a bad name," he said. "My aim is to prove the BNP is not the two-headed monster people think it is.

"It's up to us to prove we're nice people."




SEE ALSO
Guide: England's local elections
03 Apr 07 |  Politics

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