Cllr Marcus J. HartLeader of Wyre Forest District Council
In this article, the Leader of Wyre Forest District Council explains how on a night when the Conservatives lost over 1000 councillors, they also took back Wyre Forest.
Many years ago, it was said to me by a fellow Conservative that “politics is about people,” and that has stuck with me 20 years on.
Wyre Forest bucks the trend
What the Wyre Forest results on 4th May demonstrated is that you can win anywhere at any time if you have the right campaign strategy, the right policies, a team of hard-working and dedicated candidates and, most of all, the right mindset.
Wyre Forest was Conservative-led for 15 years, up until 2019 when we lost control due to many Conservative voters using their vote to protest against the national Conservative Government as a result of the failure to deliver Brexit. Then, there were clearly national issues at play, you only have to look at the results nationally to see that. However, this time, with four years of an Independent/Labour/Green led ‘progressive alliance’, we were able to successfully demonstrate that we would remove the chaos of the last four years and restore ‘pride’ to the District.
We campaigned on the issues important to local residents, in essence, ensuring the basics are done correctly, i.e. litter bins emptied, streets swept, and the grass cut. All of the previous community well-being events, such as cultural, musical, and arts events, had been scrapped and we stood on a platform to return them. We also pledged to scrap evening car park charges and have an element of free car parking, something we had previously done when we held office.
We also pledged not to sell off or transfer valuable community assets, such as parks and open space and playing fields, which local residents value highly.
All of this was in a fully costed manifesto, with key pledges appearing in all our election literature, including our election addresses, canvassing calling cards, and GOTV cards.
Most candidates were selected 12 months ago and, in essence, we have not stopped campaigning since the May 2021 Elections. Regular Saturday morning leafleting ensured that a typical ward of 4,500 houses could be delivered in one hit, with approximately 20 candidates and volunteers turning up. Since January this year, this has translated into group canvassing sessions and, for the eight weeks leading up to the Elections, evening canvassing. Speaking to voters and making the effort went a long way. In fact, many commented that it was nice to see us at a time when, nationally, things were not too good!
This was all enhanced by most candidates using social media, namely their Facebook page, to get positive stories out. Delivering four newsletters a year and keeping in touch with our residents was also key, along with attending community events, village fetes, coffee mornings, and Parish council meetings in the wards that have them.
We also fought a positive campaign with little negative campaigning.
We held a number of campaign meetings throughout the last 12 months.
We fielded 33 candidates for 33 seats. Most wards were three-member wards, so we campaigned to get the Conservative block vote. This, we successfully achieved and, despite the national picture, won 6 seats to take control with 20/33 seats.