Seven independents standing for Sidmouth

Independants Matt Booth,David Barratt,John Dyson,Dawn Manley,Tony Cox,Cathy Gardner and Marianne Rix

Independants Matt Booth,David Barratt,John Dyson,Dawn Manley,Tony Cox,Cathy Gardner and Marianne Rixson. Ref shs 3689-09-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Independent candidates are to make an unprecedented challenge for all seven of Sidmouth’s district council seats in a bid to dethrone the ruling Conservative establishment.

The would-be representatives say that letting the town’s current Tory incumbents to return in May will allow the authority’s controversial leadership to ‘run rough shod over the interests of the town’.

An eight-point Sidmouth Charter has been drawn up and signed by all of the hopefuls.

The East Devon Alliance (EDA) wants to present a ‘real alternative’ with Matt Booth, Marianne Rixson, Cathy Gardner, Dawn Manley and Tony Cox standing with its support.

John Dyson and David Barratt have opted to remain separate - but are contesting the election alongside them.

It is the first time in the district council’s 40-year history that seven independents have mounted a challenge for all of Sidmouth’s East Devon seats.

Mr Dyson told the Herald this week: “There are a lot of people in Sidmouth who will have always voted Conservative – I am appealing for them to consider their vote very carefully this time.

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“If this town returns seven Conservatives to East Devon again, it will allow the council leaders to run rough shod over the interests of this town.”

Mr Dyson has been a town councillor for a decade and was just 60 votes away from a district council seat at the 2011 elections.

He is campaigning against a relocation project he says has resulted in a ‘deliberate diversion of resources’ away from where they are needed.

Mr Barratt, another town councillor, served as an independent on Penwith District Council and was elected for two terms as the mayor of Hayle. He described the EDA as ‘a breath of fresh air’. Mr Booth is best-known for his campaign to reopen Sidmouth Drill Hall – a fight he hopes will be more successful from within EDDC.

“EDDC needs to be stopped,” he said. “I’d be 100 per cent accountable and do everything to make sure the community is involved.”

Mrs Rixson said she had no real interest in politics until moving to Sidmouth in 2008 and seeing EDDC’s ‘sheer arrogance’ towards the public.

“The relocation is an absolute farce – they are trying to defend the indefensible,” she said.

“I find it astonishing that the local councillors claim they represent Sidmouth and then vote with the majority.”

At 25, the EDA’s youngest candidate is Sidmouth Town Football Club winger Mr Cox. He brings an insight as a social housing tenant and a small business manager.

Dr Gardner is the EDA’s communications director but has also decided to stand, citing her frustration when councillors are elected unopposed.

As an unknown independent, she once pitted herself against Paul Diviani – the current leader of EDDC – vying for a Devon County Council seat.

Sidmothian Miss Manley joined the town council four years ago to protect a play area in Stowford from redevelopment.

She is now standing with the EDA for the district council and said: “Collectively we’ve got a really good chance of making a difference.

“I would like to see an end to the rule by the Tories.”

Campaign group the EDA registered with the Electoral Commission this month.

Chairman Paul Arnott said it had not wanted to give EDDC any intelligence before it had to - but Sidmouth faces the ‘imminent issue’ of the relocation from Knowle and the ‘candidates are champing at the bit’.

“We genuinely hope that the Sid Valley electorate will be pleased that for the first time ever, independent candidates will be presenting themselves for all seven ward seats,” he added.

“It is an inspiring example for the rest of the district.”

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