MORE than 130 Dorset parishes have failed to attract enough candidates to go to the polls at the coming May 2 local council elections.

Twenty parishes have no candidates at all.

It will mean some parish councils being unable to function after May 7.

For some it will result in a second call for an election with another round of voting taking place in June - if enough candidates come forward.

For many parish councils across the Dorset Council area the problem may be overcome by co-opting members, if volunteers can be found, or struggling on with fewer councillors, provided they have a legal minimum (quorate).

There appears to be no pattern to the shortages with pockets of unfilled vacancies around places such as Broadmayne, Portland, Puddletown and Crossways and also around Wareham and Wimborne, Gillingham and the Tarrants, Blandford and Shaftesbury as well as in and around Verwood, Ferndown, St Leonards and St Ives.

Almost all of the larger parishes, known as town councils, will be holding elections with closely fought political battles including the new Weymouth Town Council where seventy candidates will fight for the 29 seats.

Some parish councillors claim that their views have not being given due weight in the local decision making process – an opinion which emerged strongly during the run-up to the change in local government and resulted in a formal resolution for the new Dorset Council to take more account of the community-based parishes.

It includes a delegation of parish councillors to a meeting of the shadow council protesting very publicly that they were not being listened to and a resolution passed by the shadow authority to say it would do more to consult not only with parish councils, but with other public bodies as well. The mechanism for doing so was not explained and will be up to the newly elected council although setting up a series of 'area forums' has been discussed.

Jacqui Andrews Corporate Manager, Democratic and Electoral Services at Dorset Council says that although the number of not contested seats in the county is quite usual for Dorset it does reflect the national position.

“If the Parish Council has sufficient nominations to be quorate, it may co-opt to the remaining vacant seats,” she said.

“In Dorset we have a number of parishes for which we have received no nominations or insufficient to constitute a legally formed Parish Council. This means that there will be no councillors on 7 May 2019 when the sitting councillors retire and the council will be unable to function.”

“If there are no parish councillors, the Parish Council cannot rely upon section 21 of the Representation of People Act 1985 to co-opt.”

“The Returning Officer therefore has a duty to order an election to fill the vacancies... The new election day must be within 35 days of 2 May which is calculated as ending on 8 June 2019.

“Discussions will be held with the Returning Officer about the most appropriate date on which this election should be held. If we receive sufficient nominations but an election is uncontested, the parish council could seek to fill any remaining seats by co-option if necessary. In such circumstances, it is possible for Dorset Council to make an Order to bring forward the date on which the parish councillors take office if it so wishes.”

Typical of the parishes to find itself short of councillors is Crossways although the village, now bordering on being a small town, has often been in the headlines with a push for thousands of new homes in the area.

Parish council chairman at Crossways, Andrew Brewer says that having only seven volunteers out of eleven vacancies is not very good for one of the largest villages in the county.

“The consensus of opinion is that the nomination forms are not very user friendly. Parish councils are suffering from a feeling that they are basically ignored while being bombarded with surveys and questionnaires and requests for feedback - and then seeing that the results are ignored.

“There are plenty of people who complain about the things we get wrong and quite a few who tell us what we should be doing but not many prepared to take seats on the council,” he said.

Cllr Brewer says Crossways has lost two councillors through personal and work reasons and will now have to focus on co-opting.

“The only time there has ever been a full council election was when the Crossways Parish Council was formed,” he said.

Chief Executive of Dorset Association of Parish and Town Councils Hilary Trevorah says that on the positive side more than 1,500 people have stepped forward to serve their communities as town or parish councillors.

“It's an impressive number,” she said.

She said that she expects that people will now come forward and volunteer their services once they discover there are vacancies.

“This is a very important and interesting time for parish and town councils, as they are the closest level of government to their communities and will have an essential role in working in partnership with the new unitary councils in Dorset.

“Seventy people have come forward as candidates for 29 seats on the new Weymouth Town Council. We will continue to support over 1,500 newly elected parish and town councillors in their very worthwhile role in making a difference to the health and wellbeing of their residents through provision of much needed open spaces and social facilities, supporting local projects such as affordable housing and being the voice of their community to large organisations in both the public and private sector. It is now more important than ever to become a parish or town councillor and there are procedures to fill any vacant places to ensure this vital democratic work continues, which this association will help and support.”

Because of insufficient candidates there will not be elections in the following parishes – and in more than 20 parishes there were no candidates at all: Abbotsbury, Affpuddle & Turnerspuddle, Alderholt, Allington, Alton Pancras, Arne, Ashmore, Athelhampton ( no candidates), Batcombe, Beaminster, Beer Hackett, Bere Regis, Bettiscombe, Bincombe, Bishop's Caundle, Blandford Badbury Heights, Blandford Old Town, Blandford Hilltop, Blandford St Mary, Bothenhampton (no candidates), Walditch, Bourton, Bradford Abbas, Bradford Peverell (no candidates), Bradpole Claremont ( no candidates), Bradpole Village, Broadmayne, Broadwindsor Blackdown, Broadwindsor, Broadwindsor Drimpton, Bryanston, Buckland Newton, Burleston (no candidates), Burstock, Burton Bradstock, Cann, Castleton, Cattistock, Cerne Abbas, Chalbury, Chaldon Herring, Charlton Marshall, Charminster North, Charmouth, Chedington (no candidates), Cheselbourne, Chetnole, Chettle (no candidates), Charlestown & Littlesea, Chickerell Village, Child Okeford, Chilfrome, Church Knowle, Colehill East, Colehill Hayes, Colehill West, Compton Abbas, Compton Valence (no candidates), Corfe Castle, Corscombe, Cranborne, Crichel, Crossways, Dewlish, Durweston, East Chelborough (no candidates), East Lulworth, East Orchard, East Stoke, East Stour, Edmonsham, Evershot, Farnham, Ferndown Central North, Ferndown Stapehill, Fleet, Folke, Fontmell Magna, Frampton, Frome St Quintin, Gillingham Ham (no candidates), Gillingham Milton on Stour, Gillingham Rural, Gillingham Town, Goathill, Godmanstone, Gussage All Saints (no candidates), Gussage St Michael, Halstock, Hazelbury Bryan, Hermitage, Hilfield, Hinton St Mary, Hinton, Holnest, Holt, Holwell, Horton, Ibberton, Iwerne Courtney (Shroton), Iwerne Steepleton (no candidates), Kingston Russell, Kington Magna, Langton Herring, Leigh, Leweston, Lillington, Litton Cheney, Loders, Long Bredy, Longburton, Lydlinch, Lytchett Matravers, Lytchett Minster & Upton-Lytchett Minster & Upton East, Lytchett Minster & Upton-Lytchett Minster & Upton West, Maiden Newton, Manston, Margaret Marsh (no candidates), Marnhull (no candidates), Melbury Abbas, Melbury Osmond, Milborne St Andrew, Milton Abbas, Minterne Magna, Morden, Moreton, Mosterton, Morcombe, Netherbury, Nether Cerne, Nether Compton, North Poorton, Oborne, Osmington, Over Compton, Owermoigne, Pamphill North, Pamphill South, Pentridge, Piddlehinton, Piddltrenthide, Pilsdon, Portesham, Portland Tophill East, Portland Tophill West, Powerstock, Poyntington, Puncknowle-Bexington, Puncknowle-Punckowle, Puddletown, Purse Caundle (no candidates), Ryme Intrinseca, Sandford Orcas, Seaborough, Shapwick, Shillingstone, Shipton Gorge, South Perrott, Spetisbury, Stinsford, St Leonards and St Ives South, St Leonards and St Ives East, St Leonard and St Ives West, Stockwood (no candidates), Stoke Abbott, Stourpaine, Stour Provost, Stourton Caundle, Stratton, Studland, Sturminster Marshall, Sturminster Newton, Sutton Waldron, Swyre, Symondsbury- Pine View, Symondsbury-Symondsbury, Symondsbury-West Cliff, Tarrant Crawford (no candidates), Tarrant Gunville, Tarrant Hinton, Tarrant Keyneston, Tarrant Launceston, Tarrant Monkton, Tarrant Rawston, Tarrant Rushton, Thorncombe, Thornford, Tincleton (no candidates), Todber, Toller Fratrum (no candidates), Toller Porcorum, Tolpuddle, Trent, Up Cerne (no candidates), Verwood Dewlands North, Verwood Dewlands South, Verwood St Stephen's Castle, Verwood-Verwood Three Legged Cross, Wareham St Martin- Holton Heath, Wareham St Martin- Sandford; West Chelborough, West Compton (no candidates), West Knighton, West Lulworth, West Moors, West Orchard (no candidates), West Parley, West Stafford, West Stour, Whitechurch Canonicorum North, Whitcombe, Wimborne Minster- Wimborne East, Wimborne St Giles, Wimborne Minster- Wimborne Town, Winterborne Came (no candidates), Winterborne Herringston, Winterborne Houghton, Winterbon Kingston, Winterborne Monkton, Winterbourne Steepleton, Winterborne Stickland, Winterborne Whitechurch, Winterborne Zelston, Winterbourne Abbas, Witchampton, Woodlands, Woodsford, Wool-Bovington, Wool Village, Wootton Fitzpaine, Worth Matravers, Wynford Eagle, Yetminster,