Wallasey a key battleground in upcoming local elections

In May 1995, the Labour Party was at 55% in the national polls and in that year’s local elections, Labour won in Wallasey for the first and only time.

The ward, which includes parts of New Brighton as well as Wallasey Village however has remained solidly Conservative since with three Conservative councillors since 1999.

Now 28 years later as Wirral Council moves to all out elections, Labour holds a significant lead nationally with the party hoping to gain ground after it came within 109 votes of winning Wallasey in 2022’s local elections.

At the last local election in Wirral, only two council seats separated Labour and the Conservative opposition with no party having overall control and with a population of 14,500 people, Wallasey could end up deciding who comes out on top.

People who spoke to the LDRS in the area said they were looking for someone to revive the town centre and represent their community with parking and a proposed cycle lane from Birkenhead to Wallasey coming up as key issues for some voters.

Nick Bowerman, who runs Stollies Cafe and Deli, said he doesn’t vote in general elections but will be voting locally. He said, “What is important to me as a business owner is getting support when I need it.

“I often find I do not get anything from the council but I feel like we are part of the community and when our business does well, it is good for the community.”

Ann Marie Karakoshi, who works at Big Fish Fish and Chips, said, “Parking is a nightmare. If they install the cycle lane, there is nowhere to park now so if they take away the currently available parking spaces, then we are done for.”

Jane Pratt, the director of Munros, felt parking was an issue too, adding, “There are no big car parks around here which must stop people.” She said another issue facing the town was a lack of a town manager to oversee business in the area.

Steve Hoey, Conservative candidate in Wallasey

Looking to hold onto their seats in Wallasey are Conservative councillors Ian Lewis and Lesley Rennie and joining them on the campaign trail is Steven Hoey, a former volunteer for Age UK Wirral who used to work in Wirral Council’s social services department.

Having lived in Wallasey all his life, Mr Hoey currently volunteers at the Community SOUL cafe. When asked why people should vote for him, he said, “I am here to campaign on local issues. It is a fact the funds come into the Wirral but most of it goes to Birkenhead and Wallasey gets nothing.

“I have always wanted there to be a lift at Wallasey Village station. I think there should be disabled access at any station and keeping the libraries open, that is another thing.”

The Conservatives over the course of the campaign have called for regeneration funds to reverse the decline of Wallasey town centre and prevent encampments down by the coast. They have also voiced concerns over the £14m Birkenhead to Wallasey cycle lane they argue would be too costly and is unwanted.

Labour candidates Graeme Cooper, Brenda Hall, and Saul Murphy

Challenging them is Saul Murphy, one of the Labour candidates who grew up in Wallasey. A teacher, he said key issues on the doorstep included concerns around greenbelt developments, managing green spaces like the Dips, as well as making homes more energy efficient. He believes Labour, and crucially a Labour majority, would address these concerns.

Despite Labour councillors voting to move the cycle lane plans through to public consultation in 2022, Mr Murphy believes the local authority needs to rethink it.

He said, “On Grove Road, they want us to rethink the idea. The residents around that area just say it is going to push parking into the side roads and they don’t think the roads are capable for it. It would be my job to listen to the concerns of the residents and they just can’t see the feasibility of it.”

Mr Murphy said, “When you then put it on certain roads, I think then the practicality may not work. We do have a great promenade and I’m all for cycling, it gets people out of the house and gets them fit.”

He added, “It’s not to say no no no, that we don’t want people on the bike, but if business and residents are going to be affected to a certain degree, you have to go back and rethink it because that would be our job as a councillor.”

Though considered to be a race between Labour and the Conservatives by the two main parties, the Green Party and Liberal Democrats have also put candidates forward. Lynda Williams and Matthew Chell are also standing for Reform UK and the Freedom Alliance.

Ryan Davies, Green candidate in Wallasey

Ryan Davies, from the Green Party, said they are standing to give people more options.

He said, “There’s lots of different things that need to happen. We need to do more around the traffic situation, there’s a few things we could do to make it more pleasant. You look at the residential roads and often cars are parked partially or halfway on the pavement.”

He added the Green Party would be looking at “anything we can do to make things cheaper, things easier for people to get by. Make sure there’s more things locally. This area is called Wallasey Village but do we have everything we need that we’d expect to see in a traditional village-sense, does it have that town centre?”

He also supports low traffic neighbourhoods and introducing traffic calming measures such as making streets one way and 20 mph limits to tackle speeding issues. He’s in favour of the cycle lane going ahead arguing there’s enough space on the roads to accommodate it.

He believes this will bring people into places like Wallasey, adding, “There’s a lot of people who will want these facilities locally and will want to make use of the local town and village centres and we need to do everything we can to support that.”

John Codling, Liberal Democrat candidate

Liberal Democrat candidate John Codling meanwhile said, “We do need to improve road safety and reduce accidents. We can tackle the less visible but damaging impact of air pollution as electric cars replace older diesel and petrol models. We desperately need the roll out of EV charging points as many homes do not have the means or space to install them.

“The vast swathe of proposed 20 mph speed limits in Wallasey misses the mark. We will have signs festooning almost every road, including many main bus routes. Cars do not necessarily work more efficiently at the lower speeds and goodness knows how the limits would be policed, especially when many drivers do not heed the current limits and can get away with it.”

The full list of candidates in Wallasey:
Matthew Chell (Freedom Alliance. Stop the Great Reset)
John Codling (Liberal Democrats)
Graeme Cooper (Labour)
Ryan Davies (Green)
Moira Gommon (Green)
Jane Gorman (Green)
Brenda Hall (Labour)
Steven Hoey (Conservatives)
Ian Lewis (Conservatives)
Saul Murphy (Labour)
Lesley Rennie (Conservatives)
John Uriel (Liberal Democrats)
Lynda Williams (Reform UK)

Images: Ed Barnes

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