Voting for a political party will change nothing claims independent Nick Fogg as he fights to put Marlborough first
Handing decisions over to political parties – in this case the Conservatives controlling Wiltshire Council -- has done nothing to solve the austerity crisis of slashed budgets facing local government today.
That is the challenging standpoint of Marlborough’s independent champion Nick Fogg (pictured), twice mayor of the town, founder of its international jazz festival and vociferous local campaigner since he won a town council by-election in 1981.
He is the veteran on the block at the start of the first re-election of Wiltshire’s Tory-controlled unitary authority and is already out knocking on doors and explaining to voters the virtues of defiant localism against the increasing politicisation of local government.
“I find it impossible to discern a single benefit that has accrued to our community as a result,” he declares in his election address. “Decisions are made in groups that relate to political parties rather than the people they purport to represent.
“It was even revealed that members of political groupings on Wiltshire Council are obliged to make contributions out of their expenses allowances, which are publicly sourced, to their political party. The cost of this born by you – the taxpayer.”
And he adds: “Local government is in a state of crisis, with the falling central budgets and declining services. I firmly believe that local government should be local.
“I do not believe that being government from Exeter (embryo seat for regional system) will be to our advantage. And I will do everything I can to prevent it.
“Our local government is beautiful, but fragile. We need to protect it for future generations. The last four years have seen major degradations in Marlborough.
“Look around you. Have things got better?”
He insists: “Remember. Voting for a political party will change nothing. It won’t even get the questions asked. The only way forward is to put Marlborough first!”
Mr Fogg, who came to Marlborough to teach at the College in 1978 and stayed with his wife Edwina as they brought up a family of six, says he has always been the independent voice of the Marlborough community.
From his role as a town councillor – he was elected Mayor for 1985-6 and again in 2009-10 – he served on the old Kennet District Council for six years and has been a member of the unitary Wiltshire authority since its birth four years ago.
“Although I wouldn’t claim to have overturned the system since you elected me,” he tells constituents, “I can say that Marlborough is no longer a place that can be ignored.
“We have achieved a lot in the last four years and this is because I’ve worked with you in your interests. I’ve put my authority behind the people and, together, we’ve had success – although nothing like enough.”
He has a list of five major projects for the town he wants to pursue, including his proposals for CCTV, outlined in a 10,000 word report endorsed by the town council, improving parking conditions, introducing a permanent cinema and providing a universal electrical system for the High Street to cope with Mop Fair installations, Christmas lights, Apple Day and major High Street events.
And he points out: “Over the last 10 years I have been able to help many people on an individual basis, whether it be on planning matters, housing, personal difficulties, or other issues.
“It is a privilege to make a difference in people’s life and the wonderful thing is that everyone always says ‘Thank you’ – even if I haven’t been able to achieve what we would have liked.”
The two other candidates standing in the Marlborough West ward are:
Noel Barrett-Morton (Cons) and Pauline Lively (Lab).
I never ask people to vote for me admits Nick Fogg as he goes on the knocker
While everyone awaits Baroness Thatcher’s funeral today (Wednesday) – and the IMF tell Chancellor George Osborne to change course – Councillor Fogg has been canvassing in the traditional “on the knocker” fashion.
“I never ask people to vote for me,” he told Marlborough News Online. “I can’t see the point of that because if they say Yes you simply don’t know I they are going to or not. So I have a little chat, proffer my literature and away I go to the next hours.”
Except that he is so well known and voters prove to be so friendly that he is often invited inside.
“One gentleman asked me if I was going to Mrs Thatcher’s funeral,” he reveals. “I had to tell him I had been overlooked on the invitation list or that.
“He was a very strong Thatcherite, but that’s not a view I expect to be automatic in this area. The verdict on Maggie is very much divided. And quite rightly so.
“It as very divided in her lifetime. She was a figure people likrf to have their own personal views on. She was not a person you could skip over and forget.”
Some voters were concerned over “the economic shambles” of the government and others were fed-up with politics, having lost their trust in the system.
“But I think they are prepared to vote if they feel they have a candidate they can rally behind,” said Councillor Fogg. “That’s me, by the way. Of course I’m hopeful for victory.
“Last time I got about 60 per cent of the vote, which made it pretty comfortable but one is never complacent about that.
“I have a Tory and a Labour lady against me. We were expecting UKIP. They put up against me last time, and they did better than Labour.
“But not this time though they said they would contest every seat. It would have been a good thing if they had this time, but it’s too late now.”
While he finds some voters on the ball with questions about the state of the roads – Marlborough High Street is due for reinstatement this summer – others raise erroneous issues such as the lack of gentlemen’s outfitters in Marlborough which are beyond his remit.
He delights in their warmth and friendliness, their concern for his wife, Edwina, the current Mayor who has been diagnosed with cancer and is not seeking re-election to the town council.
“One gentlemen invited me in the other day for a few large whiskies,” he added. “It was a temptation I felt it difficult to resist, but I managed to do it because I knew that would be the end of my canvassing that day.”