Savernake campaigner Val Compton bids to fill town council’s empty seat

Written by Gerald Isaaman on .

Val ComptonVal ComptonCampaigner Val Compton, who became the local hero of the failed High Court battle to save minor injuries unit at Savernake Hospital, is making a bid to become a Marlborough town councillor.

She is so far the only person to have applied to be co-opted on to the council following the surprise resignation of former mayor Robin Notton, a Tory councillor for East ward whose colleagues failed to demand a by-election to replace him.

And with only months to go to next year’s full council elections – the first in four years for 16 councillors -- it is doubtful whether anyone else will want to take on the challenge of being a councillor for such a short period.

“Will I be any good as a town councillor? – I don’t know,” she told Marlborough News Online. “I might be hopeless at it. But I want to see if I can make a difference.”

“If I’m co-opted I have until next May to prove myself.  And then it will be for the people to make the next decision for themselves when the time comes to vote.”

But at least Mrs Compton, a widow who came to live in Kennet Place, Marlborough, in 1996, is an activist who has attended local council meetings for almost 30 years and knows how the system works.

She was initially a reluctant campaigner for Savernake Hospital while working there as a physiotherapy assistant but by then she had fallen in love with Marlborough and became the voice of  those fighting to save the minor injuries unit from NHS cuts.

“I was absolutely terrified of the thought of meeting a barrister, let alone going to the Royal Courts of Justice,” she recalled.  “But by the end of two years more than five barristers had gifted their time to me, plus a QC, and I visited the High Court on 10 occasions.”

“It probably was a life-changing event and I’ve never got over losing – hence my pledge that I will not stop working until local people can get treatment for minor injuries closer to or at home.”

Would be co-opted candidates have until July 24 to apply before being interviewed on July 30, one finally being selected to attend the next full meeting of the town council in August.

Mrs Compton plays a role in the Action River Kennet organisation, is a campaigner for residents’ parking spaces, a litter picker, a member of local dance and singing groups, broadcaster and a supporter of the Transition Town movement.

“People do fail to recognise that the powers of the town council -- and the size of its budget -- is very limited,” she added.  “It is nothing more than a parish council.  We are nothing really but a village, that’s all.”

But she approves of independent, non-political councillors who “see the bigger picture” and have a vision for the future of the town, provided they ensure that residents are kept fully informed.

“Marlborough can punch way above its weight,” she said. “And it does. You only have to look at this weekend’s International Jazz Festival to see that, what it does for the arts, for sport and the local ecology.”

“Yet some people never take any interest in what is happening or see how they might influence the decision making process. And that has to be addressed.”