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Outgoing Ashfield Independents councillor Andrew Harding to vote Labour on 4 May

An outgoing Ashfield Independents councillor says he will not vote for the party at next month’s election.

Andrew Harding was elected to Ashfield District Council in May 2019 as one of two candidates for the party in the Huthwaite and Brierley ward.

His ward colleague is Tom Hollis (Ash Ind), the former deputy leader of the authority.

They received a combined 3,765 votes and a share of roughly 80 per cent – taking the two council seats from Labour.

Voters in the district will go to the polls again on May 4, 2023, to elect 35 new councillors onto the authority for the next four years.

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However, Mr Harding has revealed he does not intend to support the party next month.

He says he also went against his own political group and also voted for an opposing party in the May 2021 county council elections.

He said: “I voted for Labour during the 2021 county council elections because I didn’t want to vote for Tom [Hollis] and the Ashfield Independents.

“Labour’s candidates for this year’s election have knocked on my door, asked if I’ve got any issues and they’re genuinely nice people.

“They want to help their community and, when they asked me if I planned on voting for them, I said yes.

“They are the only alternative we’ve got to the Ashfield Independents.”

Mr Harding has been replaced on the ballot sheet by new Ashfield Independent candidate Paul Grafton.

The Conservatives, Labour and the Ashfield Independents are all fielding two candidates each for the two-councillor Huthwaite and Brierley ward.

On Mr Harding’s exit, the political group said this was a decision taken by its leader, Jason Zadrozny, who said he is “not sorry to see him go”.

But the departing politician says he left the party after beginning to feel let down by the group since his 2019 election victory.

He says he stopped paying subscription fees last year because he got “nothing back” in return for his membership.

“In the lead up to and when we were first elected, they couldn’t do enough for you,” Mr Harding added.

 

“It was amazing when we got elected and it has been fantastic representing Huthwaite and Brierley, but now, all it’s about is leaflets, leaflets, leaflets.

“It’s all about getting the main group of councillors re-elected at any cost and it got to the point where I was getting nothing back from being in the party.

“I stopped paying my subscription fees last year because they never included me on any of their leaflets and told nobody about the hard work I was doing.”

He adds the court convictions of Mr Hollis for harassment without violence and careless driving last autumn also affected his own reputation with residents.

These cases relate to separate incidents in 2020, when Mr Hollis was found guilty during two trials at Nottingham Magistrates’ Court in September.

Responding to Mr Harding’s comments, Ashfield Independents leader Jason Zadrozny said: “The Ashfield Independents have worked together and will finish the job of transforming Huthwaite and Sutton.

“We believe it’s critical to keep in touch with residents all year round.

“I’m not sorry to see him go – it was our choice because Huthwaite deserves so much better than he was able to provide.”

Mr Zadrozny also confirmed the party has instructed lawyers Bindmans LLP to take libel action against Mr Harding regarding separate allegations he made against the political group.

Other candidates in the Huthwaite and Brierley ward include John Howlett and Graham Lynk, of the Conservatives.

Speaking on why they should be elected on May 4, Mr Howlett said: “The residents of Huthwaite have watched how the Ashfield Independents have marred our town with incompetence.

“The time for change is now.

“The Conservatives promise to cut council tax for four years, protect our green spaces, reduce the cost of councillors, clean up our streets, sort out the council’s finances, and restore the council’s reputation with honesty and integrity.

“Vote for us on May 4 and you can help us to make it happen.”

Labour’s two candidates are Stefan Lamb and Jane Lilliman.

Setting out their stall for election, Mr Lamb said: “Having spoken to many local residents, we know the state of our roads and the cost of living are what people care about in this election.

“As your local councillors, we’ll report every pothole and chase up the county council to ensure they act on it. We’ll demand monthly progress reports and speak up if it doesn’t meet our high standards.

“We also want to introduce a Value For Money audit across the council to get better value.

“For example scrapping the political advisor posts brought in by the Ashfield Independents would save over £30,000 per year, with which we can fund free swimming lessons for children.

“Supporting families will be a priority for a Labour council.”

And the Ashfield Independents are looking to hold onto the two seats by returning Tom Hollis alongside new candidate Paul Grafton.

On their election pledges, Mr Grafton the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “Tom and I are the only candidates who will work hard all year round to continue to make major changes in Huthwaite.

“We have already made major improvements to Brierley Park, Welfare Park and the park on Sudbury Drive.

“Tom and I stood shoulder to shoulder with residents and campaigned against 300 houses on Ashland Road West, with the council’s decision overturned by Conservative Government inspectors.

“As an ex-police officer, I have served residents for years and I would value the opportunity to continue working with Tom to make Huthwaite a better place.”

•  Local Elections 2023: Ashfield list of candidates, ward maps and polling stations for 4 May vote

Below is the full list of candidates standing in the Huthwaite & Brierley ward on May 4:

Paul Ernest Grafton – Ashfield Independents Working All Year Round

Tom Hollis – Ashfield Independents Working All Year Round

John Anthony Howlett – Conservatives

Stefan Lamb – Labour Party

Jane Anne Lilliman – Labour Party

Graham Lynk – Conservatives

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