Party big guns join poll battle

THE campaign for borough council seats in Knaresborough has begun in earnest, with two of the country's leading politicians visiting the area within days of each other.

Three seats are up for grabs this year in Knaresborough and with the retirement from Harrogate Borough Council of Coun David Tankard (Liberal Democrat, Knaresborough East) both main parties are looking to make gains in the area.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith met local candidates during a visit to the town on Monday while the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy MP, had encouraging words for the party faithful on Thursday.

The visits came at a time when both parties are gearing up to fight what insiders are claiming could be one of the tightest Harrogate Council elections in years.

With the Liberal Democrats currently holding a majority of just one seat on Harrogate Borough Council, it would take merely one seat to change hands on May 1 and the entire political map of the district could be redrawn.

This year's election, the second in a year, also sees both of Harrogate Council's political leaders – Liberal Democrat Geoff Webber and Conservative Mike Gardner – up for re-election.

Meanwhile a number of new names are in the running for a place on Knaresborough Town Council with elections held on the same day.

The Town Council finds itself for the first time in many years without a Labour Party Candidate.

For a number of reasons, potential candidates have had to step down and this year, long-serving member Coun Andy Wright, former Labour leader, has decided to contest the local elections, both town and district, independently.

Coun Wright said: "I feel these elections will be viewed as a public verdict on Tony Blair taking this country to war with Iraq. Though I'm not against war in all cases, it must be the last resort.

"I feel local elections should be about local services, the calibre of the candidates and their commitment to the community."

Coun Wright is putting himself forward as "Knaresborough First".

With the recent death of long- serving Labour member Coun Malcolm Hayton, and neither Coun Althea Farmer nor Coun Julie Watkins standing, there will only be Conservative and Liberal Democrat Candidates up for election.

After 15 years on Knaresborough Town Council and eight years serving as District Councillor, Lib Dem Coun David Tankard is stepping down.

"I felt the time had come for a change." he said. "I've done council work for a long time and was getting stale. I have many plans for the future which include my role as conductor of Knaresborough Silver Band and a number of new ideas I have for the band."

David is also a magistrate and secretary for the Dales Centre of the National Trust.

The number of Town Councillors to be elected on May 1 is 15, five for each ward. They are:

Knaresborough East: *June Cooke – Lib Dem; Beverley Hallam – Lib Dem; Reginald Heapy – Con; Malcolm Jackson – Con; Helen Lyon – Lib Dem; Robert Pearson – Lib Dem; Christine Willoughby – Lib Dem.

Knaresborough King James : *Richard Hall – Lib Dem; Jayne Jackson – Lib Dem; Rodney Larwood – Con; *Diana Smith – Con; *John Smith – Con; Myra Smith – Con.

Knaresborough Scriven Park: Robert Aspin – Con; *Pamela Godsell – Lib Dem; Robert Godsell – Lib Dem; Peter Guest – Lib Dem; *Kevin Hawkins – Lib Dem; Michael Hill – Con; Pamela Singleton – Con; *Andrew Wright – Knaresborough First.

Note: Sitting councillors are marked with *