6 things we learned from the Watford Mayoral Hustings

6 things we learned from the Watford Mayoral Hustings

6 things we learned from the Watford Mayoral Hustings

First published in News Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

When the four candidates vying to be Watford’s elected mayor on Friday met for the first hustings they clashed on number of key issues in the town.

Liberal Democrat incumbent, Dorothy Thornhill, crossed swords with Labour challenger, Jagtar Singh Dhindsa, UKIP’s Phil Cox and Conservative Linda Topping at St Thomas’ Church, in Langley Way on Monday over subjects such as the health campus redevelopment and Watford Market.

Here is what we learned about where the candidates' stand:

1. The health campus

It emerged the health campus regeneration project, which promises 750 new homes and new health facilities, might be halted if Mayor Thornhill is voted out.

Watford Observer:

Mayor Thornhill conceded that the scheme probably won’t deliver a brand new hospital, as it had been promised in the past. She said the hospital plans were in the hands of health bosses and what was more likely was there would be piecemeal improvements to the existing hospital.

She added she "won’t close the door" on regenerating the area by saying no to building on Farm Terrace Allotments.

Linda Topping said she defended new homes and shops element in the health campus, saying that element of the project was to be "admired". However she expressed shock to hear a new hospital was not a certainty.

Mr Cox said he would stop the house-building part of the development and wait for West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust to come up with plans for a new hospital.

Councillor Dhindsa said West Watford is the "wrong place" for 750 new homes and if mayor his priority would just to get a new hospital on the site.

2. Farm Terrace Allotments

Candidates clashed over the controversial plans to concrete over the 118-year-old allotments as part of the health campus. The decision is currently being challenged by plot-holders in the High Court.

Mayor Thornhill said plot-holders losing their allotments to the health campus will get new ones with new facilities, such as sheds, in Oxhey.

Councillor Dhindsa said he would save the allotments from the development if elected.

Mr Cox said Mayor Thornhill is breaking the law by taking allotments that are in use and pledged to also protect them.

Watford Observer:

Linda Topping said she had sympathy with the allotment holders but on balance though the benefits of the regeneration scheme took precedent.

3. Cassiobury Park

The candidates discussed plans to upgrade the park with £5 million of lottery cash. Councillor Dhindsa stressed need to strike a balance between preserving park’s history and improving facilities.

Watford Observer:

Mayor Thornhill promised consultations on the upgrade scheme but said whole thrust of plans is to improve park and preserve its heritage.

Mrs Topping criticised spending £5million on Cassiobury Park saying it’s "beautiful" the way it is.

Whereas Mr Cox said he wants fewer noisy events in the park, but would let the majority decide what events take place there.

4. Watford Market

Plans to move the market to the old TJ Hughes car park divided the candidates. The market’s current home, Charter Place, is due to be torn down and turned into an extension of the intu Watford shopping centre.

Mr Cox slated plans for the new market, branding them a "joke", and vowed to find another site when Charter Place is built.

Watford Observer:

Mrs Topping said an outdoors in a car park is not the right place for Watford Market and said she knew several stall holders would not be moving

Mayor Thornhill said the new plans had been drawn up after consultation with stall-holders. She said previous consultations showed people in the town and market traders did not thing the current market was a success. The mayor added that taxpayers were currently subsidising a failing market and that it needs "fresh blood".

Councillor Dhindsa said the market is failing because not enough money has been put in to it in the past.

5. Immigration and racism

The candidates faced questions from the audience accusing UKIP of being a racist party that was stirring fears of immigration in the town.

Phil Cox said "UKIP is not racist" repeatedly and said in the past he has taken a stand against people behaving in a racist manner. He later said all parties have racists "in their ranks". He said when a racist is discovered in UKIP they are kicked out of the party.

Mrs Topping said immigrants were needed to run Watford businesses and there was "no room" for racism in the town.

Watford Observer:

Councillor Dhindsa said he remembers when Watford had a racism problem and that he had been attacked in the past himself. He added that the first thing a racist says is "I’m not a racist".

Mayor Thornhill pointed to anti-Muslim posters that have gone up in West Watford said she felt there it was "no coincidence" it was happening at the same time UKIP was on the rise. She said town would "grind to a halt" without immigrant workers.

6. A supercouncil for Watford?

Candidates were asked what they would do to bring more council powers "under the banner" of the town.

Mayor Thornhill said the Liberal Democrats are in favour of creating unitary councils, which have all council powers concentrated in one area. Currently powers are split between the borough council and county council.

Watford Observer:

Mrs Topping said she would act as a "natural-link" between the Conservative county council and Tory MP - so in favour of the status quo.

Mr Cox said his party would grant people a referendum on any issue where five percent of people ask to give them more say.

Councillor Dhindsa refused to promise a unitary council because he doesn't want to make promises he can't keep.

Comments (23)

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4:11pm Wed 21 May 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

I was surprised to learn that Linda Topping hadn't a clue about the Health Campus or UKIPs policy on where to put a new hospital (Our manifesto is online on this site and the UKIP website).

She really needs to keep up if she wants to have any chance in this or any future elections.
I was surprised to learn that Linda Topping hadn't a clue about the Health Campus or UKIPs policy on where to put a new hospital (Our manifesto is online on this site and the UKIP website). She really needs to keep up if she wants to have any chance in this or any future elections. Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: 19

4:51pm Wed 21 May 14

Wacko Jacko says...

It's going to be close run contest for last place between Cox and Topping, don't give up your day jobs!
It's going to be close run contest for last place between Cox and Topping, don't give up your day jobs! Wacko Jacko
  • Score: -18

4:56pm Wed 21 May 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

Our feedback says different.
Our feedback says different. Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: 16

5:09pm Wed 21 May 14

watfordrick says...

Who realistically can oust Dorothy? I need to know as I'm voting for them.
Who realistically can oust Dorothy? I need to know as I'm voting for them. watfordrick
  • Score: 18

5:12pm Wed 21 May 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

UKIP
UKIP Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: 11

5:35pm Wed 21 May 14

D_Penn says...

watfordrick wrote:
Who realistically can oust Dorothy? I need to know as I'm voting for them.
UKIP. The voting system for Mayor favours us.
[quote][p][bold]watfordrick[/bold] wrote: Who realistically can oust Dorothy? I need to know as I'm voting for them.[/p][/quote]UKIP. The voting system for Mayor favours us. D_Penn
  • Score: 18

6:20pm Wed 21 May 14

watfordrick says...

Ok Cox and Penn I'll vote UKIP for Mayor but you better beat Dorothy.
Ok Cox and Penn I'll vote UKIP for Mayor but you better beat Dorothy. watfordrick
  • Score: 22

7:33pm Wed 21 May 14

Retlas says...

I watch with interest all the electioneering.
I was a Watford Borough resident and paid rates - not council tax. Gives a clue to my age and was astounded when Dorothy was re- elected in 2010 but hey ho.
I can see no other result than a fourth term for her as the electorate is so divided and no, I have no influence on the outcome as I am not a WBC resident.
I look with, foreboding, to the outcome for Watford residents.
I watch with interest all the electioneering. I was a Watford Borough resident and paid rates - not council tax. Gives a clue to my age and was astounded when Dorothy was re- elected in 2010 but hey ho. I can see no other result than a fourth term for her as the electorate is so divided and no, I have no influence on the outcome as I am not a WBC resident. I look with, foreboding, to the outcome for Watford residents. Retlas
  • Score: 10

10:32pm Wed 21 May 14

Keith Murray says...

The one thing I learned was what a lightweight the UKIP candidate was.
The one thing I learned was what a lightweight the UKIP candidate was. Keith Murray
  • Score: -10

11:07pm Wed 21 May 14

WD18Firm says...

Sadly, I too think Dorothy will win.
Phil, with the best will in the world, you are living in your own hype bubble.
My prediction:
1. Thornhill
2. Dhindsa
3. Topping
4. ****
Sadly, I too think Dorothy will win. Phil, with the best will in the world, you are living in your own hype bubble. My prediction: 1. Thornhill 2. Dhindsa 3. Topping 4. **** WD18Firm
  • Score: 0

11:09pm Wed 21 May 14

TRT says...

Retlas wrote:
I watch with interest all the electioneering.
I was a Watford Borough resident and paid rates - not council tax. Gives a clue to my age and was astounded when Dorothy was re- elected in 2010 but hey ho.
I can see no other result than a fourth term for her as the electorate is so divided and no, I have no influence on the outcome as I am not a WBC resident.
I look with, foreboding, to the outcome for Watford residents.
Hmm. I know what you mean, I'm really worried that Dotty will get a 4th term. The consequences for the town would be horrific. She shouldn't have got in for the third term, really.
[quote][p][bold]Retlas[/bold] wrote: I watch with interest all the electioneering. I was a Watford Borough resident and paid rates - not council tax. Gives a clue to my age and was astounded when Dorothy was re- elected in 2010 but hey ho. I can see no other result than a fourth term for her as the electorate is so divided and no, I have no influence on the outcome as I am not a WBC resident. I look with, foreboding, to the outcome for Watford residents.[/p][/quote]Hmm. I know what you mean, I'm really worried that Dotty will get a 4th term. The consequences for the town would be horrific. She shouldn't have got in for the third term, really. TRT
  • Score: 5

11:51pm Wed 21 May 14

Cuetip says...

TRT wrote:
Retlas wrote:
I watch with interest all the electioneering.
I was a Watford Borough resident and paid rates - not council tax. Gives a clue to my age and was astounded when Dorothy was re- elected in 2010 but hey ho.
I can see no other result than a fourth term for her as the electorate is so divided and no, I have no influence on the outcome as I am not a WBC resident.
I look with, foreboding, to the outcome for Watford residents.
Hmm. I know what you mean, I'm really worried that Dotty will get a 4th term. The consequences for the town would be horrific. She shouldn't have got in for the third term, really.
There is much worst. Imagine the horrific consequences if Linda Topping won.

Thank God we can sleep as it will never happen.
[quote][p][bold]TRT[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Retlas[/bold] wrote: I watch with interest all the electioneering. I was a Watford Borough resident and paid rates - not council tax. Gives a clue to my age and was astounded when Dorothy was re- elected in 2010 but hey ho. I can see no other result than a fourth term for her as the electorate is so divided and no, I have no influence on the outcome as I am not a WBC resident. I look with, foreboding, to the outcome for Watford residents.[/p][/quote]Hmm. I know what you mean, I'm really worried that Dotty will get a 4th term. The consequences for the town would be horrific. She shouldn't have got in for the third term, really.[/p][/quote]There is much worst. Imagine the horrific consequences if Linda Topping won. Thank God we can sleep as it will never happen. Cuetip
  • Score: 8

12:01am Thu 22 May 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

WD18Firm wrote:
Sadly, I too think Dorothy will win.
Phil, with the best will in the world, you are living in your own hype bubble.
My prediction:
1. Thornhill
2. Dhindsa
3. Topping
4. ****
The Labour candidate Jagtar told me that it will be between UKIP and the LibDems or Labour and the LibDems.

Of course, he may be wrong and you may be right, but our feedback matches his.

Still, only two days to go and we will know the results.

So I hope everybody gets out there and votes UKIP as they have told us they will.
[quote][p][bold]WD18Firm[/bold] wrote: Sadly, I too think Dorothy will win. Phil, with the best will in the world, you are living in your own hype bubble. My prediction: 1. Thornhill 2. Dhindsa 3. Topping 4. ****[/p][/quote]The Labour candidate Jagtar told me that it will be between UKIP and the LibDems or Labour and the LibDems. Of course, he may be wrong and you may be right, but our feedback matches his. Still, only two days to go and we will know the results. So I hope everybody gets out there and votes UKIP as they have told us they will. Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: 4

12:43am Thu 22 May 14

paul9060 says...

I remember when Labour was in charge of Watford's Council and recall the financial mess that was created. When I look around this town that has been my home for over 50 years, I see a better place that is improving and compares well with most similarly sized towns across the UK. I will be pleased to see Dorothy confirmed for a fourth term, as she has demonstrated her commitment to the role through consistent hard work and personal presence at many local events.
I remember when Labour was in charge of Watford's Council and recall the financial mess that was created. When I look around this town that has been my home for over 50 years, I see a better place that is improving and compares well with most similarly sized towns across the UK. I will be pleased to see Dorothy confirmed for a fourth term, as she has demonstrated her commitment to the role through consistent hard work and personal presence at many local events. paul9060
  • Score: 2

7:51am Thu 22 May 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

Dorothy told us on live radio last night that she was not committed to being Mayor for the next four years.

She waffled a bit but that was the clear message. All the others gave a straight "yes".

Time for change from Dorothy, but I agree with you, not time to go backwards to Labour, but forwards.
Dorothy told us on live radio last night that she was not committed to being Mayor for the next four years. She waffled a bit but that was the clear message. All the others gave a straight "yes". Time for change from Dorothy, but I agree with you, not time to go backwards to Labour, but forwards. Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: 0

10:29am Thu 22 May 14

garston tony says...

TRT wrote:
Retlas wrote: I watch with interest all the electioneering. I was a Watford Borough resident and paid rates - not council tax. Gives a clue to my age and was astounded when Dorothy was re- elected in 2010 but hey ho. I can see no other result than a fourth term for her as the electorate is so divided and no, I have no influence on the outcome as I am not a WBC resident. I look with, foreboding, to the outcome for Watford residents.
Hmm. I know what you mean, I'm really worried that Dotty will get a 4th term. The consequences for the town would be horrific. She shouldn't have got in for the third term, really.
I just cant understand anyone voting for Dotty when she has made it clear she is willing to quit the job within a year when a better offer may come along.

What kind of commitment is that showing to the town? And why would anyone vote for that!? Surely even die hard Lib Dem voters can see what a nonsense situation that is?
[quote][p][bold]TRT[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Retlas[/bold] wrote: I watch with interest all the electioneering. I was a Watford Borough resident and paid rates - not council tax. Gives a clue to my age and was astounded when Dorothy was re- elected in 2010 but hey ho. I can see no other result than a fourth term for her as the electorate is so divided and no, I have no influence on the outcome as I am not a WBC resident. I look with, foreboding, to the outcome for Watford residents.[/p][/quote]Hmm. I know what you mean, I'm really worried that Dotty will get a 4th term. The consequences for the town would be horrific. She shouldn't have got in for the third term, really.[/p][/quote]I just cant understand anyone voting for Dotty when she has made it clear she is willing to quit the job within a year when a better offer may come along. What kind of commitment is that showing to the town? And why would anyone vote for that!? Surely even die hard Lib Dem voters can see what a nonsense situation that is? garston tony
  • Score: 3

10:41am Thu 22 May 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

It's worse than that Tony.

If elected she will be campaigning to become an MP on our time.

Effectively we will be paying her to campaign for another job.

It's a double insult to the intelligence of the people of Watford.

It really is time for change.

Anyone but Dorothy is something I have heard time and time again on the doorstep. I can't help think though that people have forgotten what a disaster Labour were when they said that, but I understand their sentiment completely.
It's worse than that Tony. If elected she will be campaigning to become an MP on our time. Effectively we will be paying her to campaign for another job. It's a double insult to the intelligence of the people of Watford. It really is time for change. Anyone but Dorothy is something I have heard time and time again on the doorstep. I can't help think though that people have forgotten what a disaster Labour were when they said that, but I understand their sentiment completely. Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: 2

10:52am Thu 22 May 14

Reckless Spirit says...

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford wrote:
UKIP
LOL UKIP candidate is a comedian. Its between Liberal and Labour and I think people will vote on liberal's fantastic past in Watford or whether they want to preserve the allotments/no more housing in West Watford. Phil and conservative candidate will share the booby prize
[quote][p][bold]Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford[/bold] wrote: UKIP[/p][/quote]LOL UKIP candidate is a comedian. Its between Liberal and Labour and I think people will vote on liberal's fantastic past in Watford or whether they want to preserve the allotments/no more housing in West Watford. Phil and conservative candidate will share the booby prize Reckless Spirit
  • Score: -2

10:55am Thu 22 May 14

Reckless Spirit says...

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford wrote:
I was surprised to learn that Linda Topping hadn't a clue about the Health Campus or UKIPs policy on where to put a new hospital (Our manifesto is online on this site and the UKIP website).

She really needs to keep up if she wants to have any chance in this or any future elections.
Are you allowed to be electioneering on voting day?
[quote][p][bold]Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford[/bold] wrote: I was surprised to learn that Linda Topping hadn't a clue about the Health Campus or UKIPs policy on where to put a new hospital (Our manifesto is online on this site and the UKIP website). She really needs to keep up if she wants to have any chance in this or any future elections.[/p][/quote]Are you allowed to be electioneering on voting day? Reckless Spirit
  • Score: 3

10:56am Thu 22 May 14

Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford says...

You have clearly not knocked on as many doors as I have then around all parts of Watford. I am getting a very different message.

The results are out tomorrow, let's wait and see who is closer to the truth.

It really is time for a change, it's time for a UKIP Mayor.
You have clearly not knocked on as many doors as I have then around all parts of Watford. I am getting a very different message. The results are out tomorrow, let's wait and see who is closer to the truth. It really is time for a change, it's time for a UKIP Mayor. Phil Cox - UKIP Mayoral candidate for Watford
  • Score: -1

4:28pm Thu 22 May 14

watfordrick says...

paul9060 wrote:
I remember when Labour was in charge of Watford's Council and recall the financial mess that was created. When I look around this town that has been my home for over 50 years, I see a better place that is improving and compares well with most similarly sized towns across the UK. I will be pleased to see Dorothy confirmed for a fourth term, as she has demonstrated her commitment to the role through consistent hard work and personal presence at many local events.
Lol
[quote][p][bold]paul9060[/bold] wrote: I remember when Labour was in charge of Watford's Council and recall the financial mess that was created. When I look around this town that has been my home for over 50 years, I see a better place that is improving and compares well with most similarly sized towns across the UK. I will be pleased to see Dorothy confirmed for a fourth term, as she has demonstrated her commitment to the role through consistent hard work and personal presence at many local events.[/p][/quote]Lol watfordrick
  • Score: 0

4:32pm Fri 23 May 14

croxleyite says...

They've all got their snouts in the trough anyway!
They've all got their snouts in the trough anyway! croxleyite
  • Score: 0

4:43pm Fri 23 May 14

Keith Murray says...

Phil Cox wrote:

You have clearly not knocked on as many doors as I have then around all parts of Watford. I am getting a very different message.

The results are out tomorrow, let's wait and see who is closer to the truth.

It really is time for a change, it's time for a UKIP Mayor

The people of Watford have spoken Phil!!
Phil Cox wrote: You have clearly not knocked on as many doors as I have then around all parts of Watford. I am getting a very different message. The results are out tomorrow, let's wait and see who is closer to the truth. It really is time for a change, it's time for a UKIP Mayor The people of Watford have spoken Phil!! Keith Murray
  • Score: 0

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