From a St Helens activist-In a blatant act of contempt towards their townsfolk and for the concept of local democracy, the St Helens Labour run council has furtively sneaked through the calling of a council by-election with hardly any of the town's residents or other political parties being aware of their shady actions.
Consequently the only contestants will be Labour, Cons and the Greens, who were lucky enough to spot the inconspicuous legal Public Notice of the impending election placed on the Town Hall notice board.
The local BNP branch were intending to contest this election, and probably UKIP and various other parties or independents would have thrown their hat in the ring as well if they had not been effectively barred out by the council deceit.
The local free sheet newspaper has blasted the councils underhand behaviour, and although we might agree with what they are saying about the council's tactics, it is worth pointing out that this is the same local rag that never seems to miss an opportunity to slag off the BNP, and if we had made a similar complaint instead of the Greens, there is no way they would have given us such sympathetic publicity.
The end result of this saga, is that the Greens are now in a position to harvest the entire protest vote from the myriad of disenchanted voters who will not have studied the Green's policies and be aware of their horrendous cost, but just want to use a green vote to bash the Cons and Labour.
That might be good for the Greens, but it is not good for democracy.
Here is the local rag's write up. It is quite acrid, and aptly shows up the despotic attitude of the local ruling clique, though I am not sure if I believe the excuse from the Lib-Dems as to why they are not standing.
More likely they chickened out!
Notice how they say they were fulfilling their legal obligations.
Moral obligations don't seem to figure in their concerns.
The law needs updating
The law on the announcements of “casual vacancies” of councillor positions is covered by the 1972 Local Government Act. All it requires is that a Public Notice be placed in a “conspicuous place” in the relevant district.
http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1972/70/contents (see sections 87 & 89 & 232 )
The meaning of “conspicuous place” is obviously open to different interpretations, and probably does not even mean they must announce elections on an official council notice board such as you will often find outside a Town Hall.
They might be able to get away with placing the statutory Public Notice on a church or community centre notice board.
There is no legal requirement that the Public Notice be placed on a council's website or any other digital information channel which in today's internet age is quite frankly totally inadequate.
The law should be brought up to date as soon as possible, with a mandatory requirement that election notices and probably lots of other statutory notices must be displayed on the relevant local government websites.
In the mean time, all activists should be on guard for the scam merchants in Town Halls keeping forthcoming elections under the radar.