Nottinghamshire election: Big screens and soap boxes

Ed Miliband in West Bridgford
Image caption Back on the box: Ed Miliband has taken to the streets in an effort to drum up support for Labour in the Nottinghamshire council elections

Those of you with longer memories may recall of impact of the humble soap box on an election campaign.

John Major claims his decision to ditch the glitzy PR approach to campaigning in favour of a soap box, helped him win in 1992.

And Ed Miliband opted for the soap box while rallying party supporters in Nottinghamshire for the county council elections.

There was a modest crowd in West Bridgford's Central Avenue to see him. In a few months time - just up the road - bigger crowds will gather. And it won't be a soap box catching the eye, but a huge digital screen.

When cricket fans pack into Trent Bridge to watch the Ashes Test match this summer, they'll see the outcome of a controversial political decision and one that's become an election issue.

The new digital scoreboard was possible with £1m part funding from Nottinghamshire County Council.

The Tory leadership that runs County Hall batted off Labour criticism that the cash grant couldn't be justified at a time of big spending cuts.

It's economic development, said the Conservative leader Councillor Kay Cutts.

But Labour feel this issue gives them an opportunity to score well at the Tories' expense.

In the last county elections four years ago, the Labour vote in Nottinghamshire collapsed. Gordon Brown's government was struggling to cope with the banking crisis. David Cameron's stock was rising.


The Conservatives took 35 seats, with Labour reduced to 13, the Lib Dems on 9 and independents on 10.

After 28 years out in the political cold, Nottinghamshire's Tories swept into power. And Kay Cutts immediately stamped her no-nonsense style of leadership, especially when it came to squeezing budgets.

Her council has shed 2,500 jobs over the past three years. That's been hugely controversial. Council tax was frozen and will remain so, if the Tories retain control.

But for whoever wins this election, new budget pressures will mean finding an additional £132m of savings. That's because of rising costs, mainly adult social care and child protection services.

"I think we are best placed people to do that," Kay Cutts told me.

"I can't honesty ask families to pay more money for the same number of services, so we are going to find new ways of doing it differently. And there are ways."

'Ready for work'

She also took the decision to put up £20m of council money into widening the A453, the main road that links the M1, near East Midlands Airport, and the south of Nottingham's conurbation.

Work on a new dual-carriageway is now under way.

Economic development has become a theme in this election campaign.

"We want to turn Nottinghamshire into a business county," said Labour's leader Councillor Alan Rhodes.

"Jobs and skills will be our priority. We want to make people ready for work."

The Liberal Democrats may feel the political heat this time from Labour and also UKIP, It's fielding more candidates than ever before and hopes to add to the one seat it won in Ashfield four years ago.

Liberal Democrat leader Jason Zadrozny believes what sets his party apart from its rivals, is an alternative offer for the people of Nottinghamshire .

"They'll see roads and pavements improved," he said.

"Libraries and Sure Start will be protected. It'll be a different way of doing things. And that will be quite refreshing in Nottinghamshire."

Nottinghamshire will be the barometer council to watch, and if Labour do well, the soap box may take the credit.