top of page
Image by Artem Maltsev

Frequently asked questions

  • What are your politics? Left, right, centre?
    We don't have any national policies or side with any party. That's for the main parties and its why we elect our MPs to be part of a Government and choose a prime minister who they think can best run the country. We will write to that MP from time to time when we think they can help get us but national politicis isn't for us and we don't stand in national or regional elections, just local ones, and only ones where South Woodham Ferrers is in the title. We are political about one thing only - South Woodham Ferrers . Our members are made up of people who vote for different national parties and none every five years, but are united in wanting better for South Woodham Ferrers.
  • Do you want Council Tax to be lower?
    Well who doesn't? We all want tax to be as low as it can be, we just want tax to be fair and for us in South Woodham Ferrers to receive our fair share of it . We only get around 1% of the capital spend in the district (that spent on new buildings, community centres, upgrades to parks etc) and we want a greater share of that, especially as we pay the one of the highest local precepts in Chelmsford. We absolutely accept that Chelmsford culturally, socially and economically is the hub of our district but we want more investment in our town for our residents so that we're not left behind.
  • How can you be independent candidates when you are part of a party registered with the Electoral Commission?
    Because that's how the Local Government Association classifies us as we are a small local party. We were only formed about 10 years ago to provide residents with the opportunity to vote for candidates who are focussed on local matters rather than ones influenced by the ideologies and national politics of the big 3 English parties. It's true we aren't independent councillors in the sense that we are not individuals standing under no party banner with just their own views and ideas to take into the Council chamber. Instead we talk together about how best to represent the town for the benefit of the residents and we ask you what you'd like to see done (e.g. the Compass Gardens survey) and take forward your views wherever possible. We are, however, defined as independents by the Local Government Association (LGA), the Electoral Commission and in both polling and broadcasting parlance. We sit alongside many other small local parties from around England and Wales within the Independent Group of the LGA. In this sense we are absolutely independents.
  • Are you a party on the Town Council?
    No, we don't think party politics, even ours, matter at Town Council level and it's much more important for individuals to be free-thinkers, be open-minded in debate, and not 'take the party whip'. We commend the Conservatives for also not sitting as as a party on the Town Council. It is refreshing and we think producitive. Unfortunately the Lib Dems do sit as a party currently. Four of our members are Town Councillors and they are free to vote differently to each other on issues which come up before the Town Council such as planning applications, upkeep of the some of the towns facilities, planning events, having a say on consultations which affect our town and so on, which is the business which the Town Council mainly deals with.
  • Is it true the Conservatives built South Woodham a swimming pool/leisure centre?
    It is true that SWF’s swimming pool was built under the Conservative administration but it was the previous administration, with Cllr Roberts (one of our candidates and former councillors), who sought and won the funding that was required to build it, including National Lottery money.
  • You say that Compass Gardens Car Park being built a year earlier was down to SWFCTA councillors. How?
    During 2020, Cllr. Bentley was in email contact with Cllr. Rose Moore to try to get something more permanent done about the sorry state of the Compass Gardens car park which had a rash of potholes that filled with water in the winter months and made parking a nightmare for users of the Gardens. The idea was to link it with the revamping of the play area due to take place in the summer of 2021 rather than wait until 2022 when it was scheduled. The previous Conservative administration had done nothing but pile up heaps of road planings. At Cabinet on 17th November 2020 he asked when work to improve the condition of the car park at Compass Gardens, South Woodham Ferrers, would be carried out. The minutes of the meeting report, 'The Cabinet Member for Greener and Safer Chelmsford said that funding in the capital programme for the scheme would be brought forward to 2021-22 and the work was planned for between June and August 2021 following the refurbishment of the equipped play area in the park. In the meantime, the Cabinet Member would check on when scheduled maintenance to remove loose surface material in the car park would take place.'
  • Why do you campaign for elections to be held?
    To encourage democratic choice. The resignation or death of a councillor at City and County level triggers a by-election automatically but a vacancy at Town level doesn't do that. Our Town council costs money. Each of us pays between £30 and £70 per year, per household, through our council tax for it. That adds up to nearly half a million pounds a year. We want our democracy to a vibrant one. Many people don't realise what the council does and how important it is and we want to promote that. Although we don't sit as a party on the Town Council (in common with the other parties except for the Lib Dems), we are determined that people in the ward where a vacancy is know about it and are encouraged to stand, no matter what their policies. The Town Council does this when it advertises vacancies in the Focus and elsewhere and we just amplify that. It takes just two residents who want to be a councillors to trigger a by-election. If it ends up as an election, yes, it may cost around £1000 or so, but that is democracy and we want people to be as engaged as possible in the civic life of their town. For more information refer to: Electoral Commission.
  • How did SWFRP help older people to stay fit and healthy on a budget in South Woodham?
    Back in 2019, in order to save money, 'free' swimming was restricted to the over 65s whereas it had previously applied to all over 60s. These changes were put together by the Tory administration in 2018. At the same time Chelmsford City Council's leisure services decided to put the seniors session between 6.30-8.45am. Not the most sociable of hours, you'll agree. We received several complaints from residents and acted on them. We negotiated some changes to the timetable to give older users of the Leisure Centre and Pool a better choice. The Conservatives neither consulted South Woodham residents, nor communicated the change at the time even though two SWF councillors sat on Chelmsford Cabinet. The LibDems seem to be following in their predecessor's footsteps as they recently introduced even more changes to the senior swimming scheme. Now only those on benefits are able to get reduced rate (not free) swimming at our pool. Cunningly, it was launched to give as little opportunity as possible for debate and no consultation of stakeholders was undertaken, yet again.
  • Is it true that you got the planning application for Countrywide’s 1020 home development called-in…wasn’t that the Secretary of State?
    The two things are different and the Secretary of State didn’t ‘call-in’ the application, but merely issued a temporary holding decision which has since been lifted. At Chelmsford City Council Planning Department there is a procedure that allows local ward Councillors (in this case Elmwood and Woodville ward) to “Call In” planning applications so that they have to go to the Planning Committee rather than be determined by officers. SWFCTA Councillor, Ian Roberts, called-in the Planning application back in 2021 to ensure that there was the opportunity for the Town Council and residents to have their say. This extra debate gave everybody more chance to look at the planning decision which will have the biggest impact on our town of any development since the 1980s.
  • Wasn't it the Town Council who got the Creekview Green paths reinstated not you?
    One of our members had been in contact with Chelmsford Council about Creekview Green since 8th July 2020 where he sent a question to be answered in Cabinet. It was answered, but not to his satisfaction. The SWFCTA councillors invited Councillor Moore from the ruling Liberal Democrats to visit Saltcoats Park. We showed Cllr. Moore the issues with the paths and how walkers used to be able to cross to the creek from Creekview Road and she promised to sort it out. It took a few more months and a couple more visits but the paths were eventually cut through and formed a great access point as well as haven for wildlife.
  • Voting Independent is a wasted vote because the main parties are in charge?
    That's not the case because if there's ‘no overall control’ of the City Council (no one party has enough seats to be in the majority) following the May election, our party will be very much in the driving seat. One or other of the big parties will want us to support them in order to get their policies and budgets through Council. We would then be able to demand better facilities and services for our town. Even if one party gets overall control, should all 4 of our candidates take seats the big parties will have to rethink how they've ignored SWF and work harder to win votes next time. History shows how the other main parties have not covered themselves in glory when it comes to making improvements for the residents of SWF. It would be more likely that our town gets what it deserves if we and other non-aligned groups have more members on the City Council.
  • Why vote for you, you just vote with the Lib Dems?
    We opposed the LibDems on a motion to remove the prayer at the start of Full Council. We teamed up with the Conservatives when we were being asked by the LibDems to support some major investment which had a large risk involved. We have put forward amendments to the past 2 budgets and together with other independents put forward an amendment to the budget 3 years ago. We voted for the Conservative amendment in the last budget. It's also a fact that the Conservative group has voted with the LibDems over the past 4 years on more than one occasion e.g. Modern Day Slavery. However, there are very few issues that actually come to a meaningful vote because of the way the City Council is structured. Full Council and Policy Board are the main ones. Planning is supposed to be non-political, although following a recent meeting that is debatable. Other committees we are involved in are non-political. Cllr. Bentley is on Governance and Cllr. Roberts on Licencing and Regulatory none of which are ‘political’ in nature. Cabinet, which takes most of the major decisions, has 5 voting members and all are from the administration (LibDems). Both of our members have spoken extensively at Cabinet and questioned the LibDems over many of their decisions during the 4 years but we have no vote - neither do the Tories. All committees are put together on a proportional basis, so the majority party will always carry the day if they want a particular outcome.
  • You don't do anything apart from in the build up to the elections?
    We have been active from the start of this 4-year term. The Leader of the opposition, Roy Whitehead, said they hadn’t heard South Woodham Ferrers mentioned as often in the previous administration as it had in the first few months of this one. Cllr. Bentley has been involved in the Waterways Working Group since its inception and made sure our riverside town had been considered wherever possible. One of our meetings was specifically targeted at what possibilities there were for increasing the offer at the Crouch. He has also been involved in the iMAC Working Group and brought up the transport issues our residents face in accessing Chelmsford whenever appropriate. We have been engaging with the administration over SWF’s leisure facilities from the start when we questioned the changes to the swimming pool scheme imposed in 2019. We’ve also been in discussion with Cllr. Moore and City officers over the maze, new play area and car park at Compass Gardens and the loss of the toddler sand play area at Saltcoats Park. Quite early on Cllr. Bentley talked to a City officer regarding possible projects using the CIL money. As a result the Council voted through 100% allocation of CIL money from the north of Burnham Road site to SWF infrastructure projects - this could be about £8 million. Both of our councillors have been very active in the masterplan process and have continued to ask for better infrastructure and more facilities to support future and existing residents of the town. We supported the Neighbourhood Plan through to it being ‘made’ and continue to refer to it whenever planning decisions are being taken that should consider it. If you compare what we’ve achieved with our 2 members with what the Conservatives have done - we’re still waiting to hear details of anything they’ve achieved over the 4 years with 4 members from SWF - it’s clear which party works hard and delivers for the town. If you compare what we’ve achieved with what the Lib Dems have done on their own initiative then you’ve only got to look at the loss of facility at Saltcoats Park and the concentration of children in the Compass Gardens play area to see that there’s a give-a-little-take-a-lot mindset. To their credit they have at least got Frankland Fields Nature Reserve status, but the Creekview rewilding has been handled poorly as has further change to the swimming scheme they introduced recently.

We get asked all kinds of questions and we thought it would be useful to put some of them and the answers to them here! If you have a question, email us and we'll answer you and put it below too!

bottom of page