Dales county council by-election candidates pledge to continue John Blackie’s work

Jill McMullon and John Blackie.

Candidates hoping to succeed high-profile and long-serving district and county councillor John Blackie have pledged they will continue his work in fighting for deeply rural communities.

The partner of the late Independent North Yorkshire County and Richmondshire District councillor John Blackie, a former council leader and an Upper Dales businesswoman are among those seeking to take on the two authorities when by-elections are held for the seats in October.

Councillor Blackie served as the Upper Dales member for the authorities for more than two decades up until his death in July.

It had been hoped to hold the votes in September, but concerns over the availability of polling stations following flash flooding in the area, have seen the by-elections put back by several weeks.

Jill McMullon, who was Cllr Blackie’s partner, was unanimously voted to succeed him as chairman of Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council this week, and said she would seek to cement his legacy by contesting for his county and district council roles.

The parish meeting heard the parish council approve a move to send the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority “a very strongly worded letter” over its members’ criticism of Cllr Blackie, in his absence, just days before his death.

Cllr McMullon, of Askrigg, who has previously served as a Richmondshire councillor for 12 years and twice served as the district authority’s chairman, said: “John asked me if I would carry on for him when he was very poorly, which was quite an honour.

“I will have a different style to John, but the end game will be the same. Communities have got to come first every time.”

Cllr McMullon, who drives the community Little White Bus and works in the Hawes community office, said she would stand as an Independent candidate as she did not believe party politics should play a role in local government.

One of her rivals for the county council seat, former Richmondshire council leader Councillor Yvonne Peacock, who secured 740 votes to Cllr Blackie’s 1,540 votes in the May 2017 county elections, said she would also seek to continue his community work.

Conservative councillor Peacock said she had worked closely with Cllr Blackie since fighting to retain doctors surgeries in both Hawes and Aysgarth in 1996 and if elected, would press the county council to continue supporting services Cllr Blackie had led, such as the Little White Bus and community office.

She said both she, and the Tory candidate for the district council, Pat Kirkbride, from the White Hart in Hawes, had spent their lives in the Dales and had a deep understanding of the issues.

Cllr Peacock said: “It wouldn’t matter what political persuasion someone is, we will work for everyone.”