Former parish chair “launches verbal war” ahead of Colnbrook by-election
Who needs Westminster Brexit deadlock when we have our own gripping political melodrama unfolding before our very eyes here in Colnbrook? The by-election in ten days’ time is shaping up to be the most interesting election in years.
All eight candidates for the Parish Council by-election have apparently confirmed their attendance at Colnbrook’s very own hustings, the Colnbrook Residents’ Association said on Sunday. Only, there is confusion tonight as to whether or not the Labour candidates may boycott the event in protest at a campaign against ‘out-of-town’ candidates.
The will-they-or-won’t-they drama is the latest development in a dispute that has been simmering since 2015 when the Labour Party fielded candidates to the Parish Council for the first time.
Ex-councillor Peter Hood, who resigned when residents executed their right to call for an election, returned to the council chamber last week as a member of the public to vent about two serving councillors. Cllrs Elum-Smith and Kinane were on the receiving end of a dressing down from Mr Hood – being variously accused of doing little for the parish, and being “intimidating”. A dispute with his former colleagues has been growing since the May 2015 election. Then, Mr Hood was reprimanded for his conduct towards Eddy Elum-Smith during the campaign. Cheemagate reared itself shortly after, with demands for a reimbursal of election costs met with a claim that the victorious Labour candidates Cllr Avtar Cheema and her daughter Jaspreet Cheema had been “forced off” the Parish Council by Mr Hood.
Mr Hood, who has been previously rebuked for bullying himself, saw his story featured in the Slough Observer. An Observer reporter, unusually present at the meeting, featured his prepared statement under the headline “Former councillor launches verbal war”.
Residents who attended reportedly described the meeting as “a shambles” while another former parish councillor, Charles Burke, posted that he was “lost for words“. He added that Mr Hood, had “done his best to exclude any new councillors who didn’t agree with his views, from having genuine input into meetings and third party group attendances”. At a time when acrimony between parish councillors appeared to be behind us, Mr Hood’s attack has reopened old wounds.
Meanwhile the Colnbrook Residents’ Association has returned to its political roots after focusing on organising social events for the past few years. The group, which helped forge the creation of the parish in 1994 says it organised the husting with the intention “that all candidates be given an equal opportunity to give their views on what they would bring to the Parish Council and how they woud serve and represent the people of the Parish”. But the group, led by chair Sean Kelly, includes among its trustees both the former chair and vice-chair who stepped down at the prospect of an election being called and has left a cloud hanging over the meeting.
The election on 23rd November is set to be the most interesting in Colnbrook since 23 candidates stood in 2011 to challenge a parish council criticised for not engaging with the community. The move prompted a number of long-serving incumbents to step down rather than face re-election in the first contested election in years, while most of those remaining grouped themselves into a de facto party, the Independent Minds.
The hustings will be held in Colnbrook Village Hall, Vicarage Way, from 7:30 until 10:30 pm on Wednesday, 15th November. Each candidate will be allowed just 10 minutes to make a pitch and take questions. Light refreshments will be offered.
Candidate details can be viewed here.