Elections 2022: Watford mayoral candidates announced – BBC


People in Watford will be voting to elect a mayor in the local elections on 5 May as the position's latest four-year spell comes to an end.
Current mayor, Peter Taylor, is seeking re-election as the Liberal Democrat candidate, while Labour's Asif Khan and Conservative candidate Binita Mehta-Parmar are looking to become the first non-Lib Dem in the role since it was created in 2002.
Directly-elected mayors in England and Wales are local government leaders voted in a local authority area every four years. They lead the council, in this case Watford Borough Council, and are responsible for the day-to-day running of it.
Many councils have a civic mayor who carries out ceremonial duties and chairs meetings, but cannot make decisions about council business. They are serving councillors who are elected to the role by the other councillors and take on the role for one year.
Councils can have both elected and civic mayors.
Elected mayors are voted in using the supplementary vote system where voters make a first and second choice in the polling booth.
Dorothy Thornhill was Watford's first elected mayor and was re-elected three times prior to Mr Taylor being elected in May 2018, when he won by a majority of nearly 6,000 votes over Labour, after the second round of voting.
We asked all three candidates (listed alphabetically by surname) who have said they intend to stand for the position what their election priorities are.
Asif Khan was born and raised in the town and was first elected borough councillor in the Leggatts Ward in 2011. He was elected as county councillor for North Watford in 2017 and is standing as a mayoral candidate for the first time.
Mr Khan said the cost-of-living crisis is "hitting Watford's families hard" with "astronomical" fuel prices, rising food costs, council tax, plus a National Insurance increase.
"As mayor, I would ensure that the powers of the council are used to mitigate and help families during this time by not putting up charges for essential services," he said.
"I would also introduce a ground-breaking Poverty Charter with the aim to eliminate child and pensioner poverty."
He wants to look at helping people buy homes, something which he said was seen as "impossible" for many, "especially first-time buyers and young people" and opposes the "monstrous Taylor's Towers that are being built all over the place ruining the town".
"I would prioritise low-rise, high-density affordable homes for the people of Watford," he said.
"The current mayor and administration are taking no responsibility for their awful policy decisions.
"I would insist developers build their fair share of affordable-rent homes so that young people and first-time buyers can get on the housing ladder, or cheaper rents for those renting and start a programme of building council houses."
While local councillors are not responsible for hospitals, Mr Khan said he "fully backs" the plans for a new hospital at the current Watford General Hospital site.
"This is the quickest and best way to get a new hospital Watford residents have waited decades for," he said.
"The other 'plans' [a campaign for a new hospital on a new site] are sadly just a distraction."
Binita Mehta-Parmar is also standing as a mayoral candidate for the first time.
She was formerly the sole Tory on Watford Borough Council after being elected for Park ward and later served as the youngest council group leader in the country at the age of 24.
Mrs Mehta-Parmar said the key issue for the town she had lived in her whole life was "overdevelopment".
She said she was "shocked and alarmed" by the amount of high-rise developments being built, with the tallest being 28 storeys.
"This was a decision that will not only irrevocably change our skyline and heavily urbanise our pleasant market town, but one which flies in the face of petitions opposing those towers by people who live in Callowland, Nascot, and Central, whose homes these will overlook," she said.
"What Watford needs is low-density, low-rise, affordable housing."
Mrs Mehta-Parmar also said she would want to "address the parking crisis".
Inflation would also be on the Conservative agenda, with Mrs Mehta-Parmar planning to cut the local precept of council tax and "axe the gardening tax" – the "surcharge on gardening waste in green bins".
Mrs Mehta-Parmar said she would make those cuts by implementing "an efficiency drive, removing all vanity projects and extraneous spending, concentrating on core council services".
The environment would also be a focus for Mrs Mehta-Parmar.
"I would implement a Climate Change Action Plan to ensure that all council services are as carbon-neutral as possible, and work to ensure conservation for the local parks and other green spaces with which our town is blessed," she said.
Peter Taylor, was raised in Sheffield before moving to Watford to work as a teacher, and he still lives in the town.
He was elected as a councillor for Oxhey Ward in May 2012 and served as Baroness Thornhill's deputy mayor, before being elected mayor himself in 2018.
He said he was standing again because he wants "to make the town an even better place".
"I've loved being mayor for the last four years," he said.
"I have had the chance to meet lots of amazing people and played my part in bringing people together to get things done."
He added that the Lib Dems had a "proud record of improving our parks, working with local charities to reduce the number of people sleeping rough and keeping council tax rises below inflation".
"For the last two years we've also had the lowest increase in council tax in Hertfordshire," he said.
Mr Taylor has set out his plans for the town over the next four years in the local party's manifesto Standing Up For Watford.
"My key priorities for the next four years are to secure new facilities at Watford General, to fight the unfair housing targets set for us by the Conservative government and to cut congestion in our town," he said.
"We also want to further invest in our parks, plant 20,000 trees, end rough sleeping and keep council tax down.
"We want to stand up for Watford so that this town is greener and safer and we care for everyone in our community."
Elsewhere, a third of Watford Borough Council's 36 seats are also being contested in the May election.
The authority is currently run by the Liberal Democrats with a majority of 12 and there are no Conservative members.
The Liberal Democrats cannot lose full control, even if they do not win any seats this time round.
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