Alan Dean

Liberal Democrat Councillor for Stansted North and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group Learn more

The end of one council; a bun fight to come!

by Alan Dean on 15 April, 2015

Last night saw the last meeting of the full council at Uttlesford. I expected it would be pretty uneventful as the agenda seemed mundane. I predicted a 45 minute meeting; it lasted 75. Everyone was being nice to fellow councillors who are standing down at next month’s election. I paid tribute to members from all parties, including those whom the electorate may decide not to choose again.

Then we came to the nomination of the chairman and vice chairman of the council for the coming civic year which begins in May. The Tory leader, Howard Rolfe, said there had been a consultation (*) and that he would put forward the outcome – Cllr John Salmon (Stansted North) for chairman and Cllr Stephanie Harris (Felsted) for vice chairman.

To everyone’s surprise, Cllr Doug Perry (Saffron Walden Audley), a fellow Tory, jumped up and said he had wanted to put his name forward, but had been told by Cllr Rolfe that he was ineligible because he chairs the licensing committee and the housing board. Cllr Perry had discovered this was not true and wanted his name to go forward. He was duly proposed and seconded by Cllr Knight and Jones. Cllr Rolfe said he wasn’t going to budge from his proposal.

(*) I then reminded Cllr Rolfe that there may well have been a private Conservative group consultation, but no one had consulted the Lib Dem group nor any other group of councillors about who were the best people for the jobs. I reminded the council that the jobs of chairman and vice chairman are meant to be civic roles free from party politics but that open discussion about this was something the Tories don’t practice. I told them there are other members willing to be considered but who would not take part in an unseemly public scrap for high office.

In the end, after much muddle amongst the Conservatives, there was no vote and all three names will go forward to the annual council meeting on May 26th, when the public can expect a proverbial bunfight. It would be further complicated were any of the contenders not re-elected. It has happened before.


4 Responses

  1. Geoff says:

    Once again Rolfe wishes to place compliant individuals in these posts who won’t cause him any problems – have I ever heard John Salmon utter a word? – and who can be manipulated. Is there no longer a convention of courtesy whereby members of opposition groups get a look in? Rolfe’s ‘reign’ shows the council in all its vainglory as it
    runs into the buffers. He’s saying, “Aren’t we a wonderful example to local government?” and everyone looking on is saying, “No! – and we want our money back!”. What a total and utter shambles!

  2. Andrew Ketteridge says:

    ….. says the man who couldn’t stand not being leader of his (7 member minority) group and replaced Liz Parr who has hardly been seen since!

    • Alan Dean says:

      So sayeth the Tory Myth Maker. See my (*) letter on planning mythology in this week’s local papers.

      * i.e. Drafted by me with contributions from the other signatories. See below:

      The Editor
      Once again an ill-informed Conservative election candidate attacks the Liberal Democrats in a vain attempt to scaremonger on the housing crisis and to score party political points; but instead shoots his own party in the foot.
      Mr Aaron Menuhin rightly says in his letter that the Lib Dem general election manifesto requires all councils to “make a plan for 15 years of housing need”.

      That is precisely what is required now by the present coalition government, of which his Conservative Party is the senior partner. It is essential that councils plan many years ahead for housing and the necessary infrastructure to support them.

      Both Mr Menuhin and a senior member of Uttlesford’s Tory cabinet, who tried to make the same mischievous claim last week after a council meeting, should know better. Much better!

      This Tory blunder could explain why Uttlesford Conservatives have spent the past eight years carelessly wasting over £2 million of local taxpayers’ money on a 15-year local plan that had to be dumped last December.

      Their latest attempt at disinformation; that a council should only plan five years ahead, demonstrates the incompetence of the local Tories and shows that they are out of touch, not only with the real world about today’s housing crisis, but with their own government’s expectations and their own current responsibilities to adhere to planning legislation.

      The Liberal Democrats in government would bring in limits on the ability of developers to appeal against planning refusals by councils. They would create for residents a Community Right of Appeal when a council makes a decision that is against its own Local Plan.

      Of course, that assumes a council will have written an up to date Local plan. Uttlesford has not thanks to the incompetence of its present Conservative administration which brought about a developer’s free-for-all.

      Uttlesford’s voters deserve better than Tory disinformation. May 7th brings the opportunity to sweep away people who have so badly let down all of us in this delightful district.
      Yours truly
      Christina Cant, Alan Dean, Iris Evans, Martin Foley, Janice Loughlin, David Morson
      Liberal Democrat Members of Uttlesford District Council

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