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Youth versus experience as councillors go to battle

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: November 22, 2012

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A FORMER senior councillor who stood down in the aftermath of a Burton Town Hall scandal will go head-tohead with a 21-year-old student in next year’s county council elections.

Staffordshire County Council’s Tower division will see a clash of youth versus experience in the poll in May, with Conservative candidate Conor Wileman taking on Labour veteran Penny Perry.

Mrs Perry was deputy leader of East Staffordshire Borough Council in 2001 when she and then leader Dennis Heptonstall quit their posts without warning and embarked on a 10-week camper van trip around Europe — without their respective spouses.

The pair resigned from the council in 2003 but Mrs Perry made a return to public life last year when she joined Winshill Parish Council. She has been chosen from an all-women shortlist to fight the seat held by Labour colleague Jim Muir from 1989 to 2009.

Mr Muir, who failed to win the borough council’s Burton ward in elections last year, said he would not have stood again in his old seat even if given the chance.

He told the Mail: “Within hours of losing in 2009 I said I wouldn’t stand again.

I’ll be 66 next year and to be frank I believe old people should get out and sit on one side.

“Whatever you say about Penny, she is an able councillor and has certainly got her head on her shoulders.”

Conservative Kathy Lamb, who usurped Mr Muir at the last election, said she would not be standing again due to ill health, having been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis shortly after her election, but also decried the ‘low-level, nasty politics’ she had experienced.

She said: “I have met some absolutely wonderful people in Tower division. I’ve always been very fond of that part of the world and will continue to support the people who do such good work in the area.”

Bidding to retain the seat for the Tories will be Mr Wileman, a law student and Brizlincote Valley resident making his first venture into politics.

He said: “I believe the average age of councillors is around 59 so my being 21 will be a shock to the system for everyone involved in the council.

“I think I will bring a fresh outlook. A lot of councillors are very old and it’s the first time a young person has come in free from the chains of being tied down with a political party for years.”

Labour must overturn a near-600 majority to take Tower division and faces an uphill struggle to overturn the Conservatives’ whopping majority on the council, holding just three seats, two of them in Burton, to the Tories’ 50.

Mrs Perry was unavailable for comment.

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  • Burton Mail  |  November 22 2012, 10:43AM

    Doesn’t it smack of sexism / discrimination that labour had an all-female shortlist for the position of councillor? I thought labour of all parties would know the meaning of discrimination!