Grace Fletcher-Hall, the current YUSU Campaigns Officer, has been selected as the official Labour candidate for the York local council election. She will go head-to-head with the incumbent Liberal Democrat councillor Ceredig Jamieson-Ball, a former York University student. The council elections for Heslington ward will take place next May.
Fletcher-Hall, a third-year student of Philosophy and Politics, has previously held the position of YUSU Women’s Officer, and is currently serving as Vice-Chair of the York University Labour Society, as well as YUSU Campaigns Officer.
“I want to see students better represented,” Fletcher-Hall said, adding “students are very vulnerable on a lot of issues – housing, employment. Many of the issues that local councils deal with are issues where students are in need of representation.”
The electorate in Heslington ward is dominated by students. Non-students, including the residents of Heslington village, represent just 20 per cent of the electoral roll. However, while students form the vast majority of the ward, there has been a continuous record of low student turnout. This has meant that in previous elections the population of Heslington village wields a disproportionate amount of power at the polls.
Fletcher-Hall, however, identifies the difference between this election and those of previous years: “I do think the student turnout will go up because, for the first time in an election, there will be a ballot box on campus.”
There has occasionally been tension between residents of Heslington and students at the University, and the proposed Heslington East development has only served to exacerbate this problem. Of this Fletcher-Hall said, “what I really want to do at this election is to find a way of talking to both parties and getting them to get along, because I think the relationship between the students and the villagers really needs to be sorted out.”
The current Liberal Democrat councillor, Ceredig Jamieson-Ball, was also a student at the University, finishing a postgraduate degree in History here in 2001. Jamieson-Ball won the council election in 2003 with a total of just 381 votes, a figure that reflects the overall low voter turnout.
A major advocate of recycling in Heslington and on campus, Jamieson-Ball noted his achievements in this field, which include “ensuring that landfill tax credits are passed on directly to students, to enable students to carry forward their recycling schemes.”
Jamieson-Ball, who is standing for re-election, described the upcoming election as “really a two-horse race” between himself and Fletcher-Hall, adding that the Labour candidate is “standing, basically, for Tony Blair’s policies, including the war on Iraq.”
Fletcher-Hall claims that she has laid aside national issues, saying “there are things that the Labour government has done that I agree with, and things that I disagree with; and for this election I really want to try to remind people that there is so much that the Labour Party stands for. I don’t want to see people manipulated, I don’t want to see students manipulated.”
The election will be held on Thursday May 3, 2007.