Alan Dean

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


by Alan Dean on 29 April, 2015

I was on a hustings panel last Friday for district council candidates. It took place in the Friends’ Meeting House in Saffron Walden and was hosted by Walden in Transition. The six panelists represented the Conservatives, the Greens, Labour, the Liberal Democrats (me), Residents for Uttlesford and UKIP.

It was well run. Apart from a few Conservatives in the audience who were there to cause mischief and had to be shut up by the chairman, the event went will with some good questions and – naturally –  some varied answers. Each panel member was given three minutes to put his or her case. This is what I said:

Abolish tribalism : a district council hustings statement

One behaviour that I want to abolish in Uttlesford Council, it is TRIBALISM.

Tribalism leads to rule by people who become so inward looking; who listen to no one but their own tribe; and as a result make foolish blunders.

No party, even if it has a majority, should fail to listen to people from other parties and none. My Liberal Democrat colleagues and I want to see a new council elected on May 7th in which members of all parties work together for the good of the district.

So, you will want to know, what else would we Lib Dems want to change?

The Big Issue! The Local Plan; a new one is needed as soon as possible to prevent yet another season of developer free-for-all.

There is a housing crisis in this country; there is a housing crisis of unavailability and unaffordability in Essex and Uttlesford which no district council can duck.

The administration for the past eight years created an undeliverable plan based primarily on its flagship “Hellsenham” proposal for a new settlement between Elsenham and Henham.

A new council must not waste a further £2,000,000 on another undeliverable plan.

You know, we simply have to look at the evidence without any party-political agenda in our heads and come up with a solution. It will require hard decisions. It may require some people to swallow their past words.

The Lib Dems want Uttlesford to plan our towns and villages as sustainable communities – not soulless housing estates – for people of all ages and of all incomes. We don’t want to see ghettos of any kind.

We want the council take a much more forward looking [and active] role in identifying our infrastructure weaknesses – roads, schools, health facilities etc. – and for it to have the staff resources to do that work. At present it doesn’t.

Then we want to ensure that developers are made to pay for their fair share of this infrastructure and not to be let off the hook by pleading poverty. The council should put some of its surplus funds into what we call a Capital Infrastructure Fund to lead the way. Too often we end up with problems after the developer has disappeared over the horizon.

Uttlesford used to be a green council. The Lib Dems would promote some of our lanes as quiet and protected lanes for local enjoyment of the countryside; and biodiversity. We would certainly do more to install renewable energy on council properties.

Finally, I want to say that the Lib Dems would overhaul the council’s decision making to restore trust from the public. Out with private meetings that bounce through silly decisions – such as “Hellsenham”. Out with working groups that aren’t allowed to work and simply rubber stamp decisions asked for by a small elite of councillors.

It may all take a bit longer – talking with people who are not of one’s own tribe! But that’s far better than wasting eight years and £2 million to get nowhere!

The Liberal Democrat team is looking forward to a better council emerging in less than two weeks and to working with all newly elected councillors towards these objectives.

Alan Dean, Lib Dem Group Leader, Uttlesford District Council




7 Responses

  1. Geoff says:

    I have a pretty good idea of the names of (some of) the Conservatives who misbehaved at the meeting. Evidence, if more were needed, of the tribalism the district has suffered under during their administration: no dissent within party ranks – or even outside – will be tolerated; the Leader’s word is the law; The leader’s opinion – like papal infallibility – is always correct and must never be questioned on pain of instant removal from any position one occupies within the group or administration; all members of opposition groups are fools and charlatans and must be castigated at every opportunity – their views must never be countenanced, even though these may contain elements of good sense.

    Now, of course, it is gradually and belatedly becoming clear to these ‘so sensible’ Conservative councillors that
    it is they who have been found out as fools and charlatans, and they cannot stomach the opposition’s – and the residents’ – displeasure, so they behave like immature five-year-olds, having a tantrum and throwing their toys around.

  2. Keith says:

    I left the hustings early, disgusted with the behaviour of the Ketteridges and frankly sick of the partisan irrelevance of the Tories generally.

    The Tories have spent 8 years and £2million of OUR money on a draft local plan that was dismissed by the inspector at a very early stage, demonstrating just how incompetently it had been put together.

    Not a word of apology from the cabinet, just an attempt to spin the decision and pretend it was a glitch. It was not.

    Hopefully, on Thursday residents will seize the opportunity to throw out the incompetents who have been abusing their tenure at the council and replace them with members of a residents party that is pledged to serve residents.

  3. Keith says:

    On the matter of tribalism, let us consider what the Tory tribe have accomplished latterly.

    They stood four-square behind the draft local plan, Tory district councillors supported the plan every time an opportunity to vote on it was placed before full council. Residents might recall that the plan in question was thrown out by the inspector in December in no uncertain terms. Rolfe and his colleagues may bleat that the plan was ‘largely sound’ but the reality is that it was grossly inadequate and the inspector invited the council to withdraw it.

    Similarly the Tory sheep voted to support the pusillanimous decisions mooted by the cabinet NOT to defend two important planning appeals, Fairfield and Kier. They presented the council with some questionable legal advice that the appeals were not defensible (legal advice that a normal person would have challenged since it assumed that the draft local plan took precedence – it did not). It is reasonable to assume that Taylor advised this approach, given that he is the assistant director planning and has always indicated his support for both applications.

    Given the failure of the plan, and now the dismissal of the Kier appeal (strangely, the inspector was unpersuaded that the Kier site was as wonderful as Taylor would have us believe) when can we expect an apology from Cllr Rolfe and his pliant colleagues? More to the point, when can we anticipate an offer of resignation from Andrew Taylor, given that he is obviously not competent to continue in the role he occupies? A properly led council would see that he was replaced as a matter of urgency.

  4. Geoff says:

    In my pre-election musings I advocated to several people the early departure of senior officers, even though this might have entailed monetary offers they could not refuse. By the whim of the electorate the Conservatives held onto control of the district council, though some voters may already be regretting how they cast their vote. And in the event we are still saddled with the current complement of senior managers with all that implies for the future effective and efficient management of the council and its services to the public.

    My immediate concern is for the welfare of Great Dunmow – and the south of the district generally – where we will be inadequately represented by the recently elected crop of councillors who seem – and have seemed – completely unconcerned for and uninvolved with the welfare of those they claim to represent. They need to be reminded that they represent all of the electorate of their wards, not just those who voted Conservative. Mr Barker crows about ‘chummy’ meetings in the Dourdan Pavilion. But he and his mates are never seen in the town – they visit it often – but only as they fly past on the way to and from council meetings. What about holding regular councillors’ surgeries in the town, Mr Barker, in order to respond to constituents’ concerns and to give an account of your actions in the conduct of council business. These Dunmow councillors may be surprised to learn that this has been a regular feature in other parts of the district over many years, and indeed much further afield. Why not here? It’s not enough to say: “Well, you can always reach me by email.”; email does not ensure a rapid response, nor indeed, any response at all. Mr Barker, you have not got off to a very good start; please explain why you are taking council-taxpayers’ money for doing very little, and let us know how you intend to improve matters.

  5. Keith says:

    Hi Geoff
    As we are both aware, Barker regularly indulges in sophistry. The ‘chummy meeting’ he refers to was the function that the Dunmow R4U candidates arranged as an opportunity for residents to come and meet us.

    One would question why Conservative candidates, including Andrew Ketteridge (who was standing down, and lives in Saffron Walden anyway) would go to an R4U function other than perhaps as an act of provocation. I suspect they thought that we would throw them out and cause a scene. Instead we welcomed them and plied them with wine.

    However, this had nothing to do with their status as councillors, indeed they were not councillors at that point in time. The fact remains that as Tony Clarke said in his last letter, Tory councillors have shown zero interest in Dunmow, and Barker has NEVER shown his face in the town outside canvassing.

    The question of senior officers is vexatious. I think that the option of putting the council into special measures has to be explored. Taylor and Harborough are totally incompetent, the senior legal officer is a liability and the chief executive couldn’t run a whelk stall. Taken into account with the useless leader and his cabinet of under-achieving rubbish, UDC really is on the brink of disaster.

  6. Keith says:

    Come on Alan, put up a new thread

  7. Keith says:

    Time you put up a new post Alan, the Tories need to to be challenged.

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