Three 'Residents for Uttlesford' Councillors, elected on a manifesto dedicated to localism, have angered both their own political party and residents with a sudden and unexpected switch to the Green Party.
On 14th October, newly re-elected Residents for Uttlesford Councillors and Cabinet members Paul Fairhurst, Barbara Light and Antony Gerard announced their intention to quit their party in favour of the Westminster-based Greens.
The three councillors stated that their decision to quit stems from R4U's failure to keep their word on its "manifesto policies, including the Local Plan and Stansted” and their desire to focus on national, rather than local interests. This lack of local focus materially calls into question just how important Uttlesford residents and community issues are to these councillors, who appear more fixated on their own vaulting ambition.
Councillor John Moran, Conservative County Councillor for Saffron Walden, said: “This exodus of senior Cabinet figures of a fledgling administration is the latest in a long line of missteps which has befallen the stuttering Residents for Uttlesford administration in their first six months in office. This latest problem calls into question their competence to perform such a critical role in local government on behalf of our residents and businesses.
“It has not taken long for the cracks to appear and now the District Council will get three even more inexperienced portfolio holders in important Cabinet roles”.
Councillor Christian Criscione, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group at Uttlesford, was made aware of the resignations days before and said: “Well it’s clear to see that after a little over five months in charge that R4U are failing residents and even their own councillors and cabinet members can see that now. They’ve misled residents of Uttlesford on key issues, promising the world and delivering nothing.”
Since May, the R4U administration has made a number of backtracking policy decisions that have weighed heavy on the minds of electors across Uttlesford:
- Despite Planning Inspectors giving them the opportunity to pull back, they opted to press ahead with the draft Uttlesford Local Plan formulated by the previous Conservative administration despite having claimed in opposition that it was ‘flawed’ and ‘unsound’.
- Their Councillors loudly criticised the previous Conservative administration’s successful financial track record and a strategy which established an aspirational approach to safeguard the financial future of the District through sound investment in property at Chesterford Research Park. While this was their stance in opposition, once in power they backtracked and now advocate that the methodology was sound.
- Perhaps most critically for Uttlesford residents, once in power, Residents for Uttlesford opted to posture and play political football with Stansted Airport, referring the previously approved planning permission for its expansion. This rash decision has significantly increased the likelihood of a legal challenge from either Stansted Airport or the Stop Stansted Expansion group, with the eye-watering legal bill potentially costing the Uttlesford District Council taxpayer millions.
As if these issues weren’t significant enough, as recently as last week the Chief Executive of Uttlesford District Council, Dawn French, took the unprecedented step of going on the record to state her 'regret' over the erosion of trust between councillors and the hard working and committed officers at Uttlesford District Council since May after the new administration was formed.
Cllr Criscione went on to say, “This goes to show that it is only your local Uttlesford Conservatives that can and will deliver good services, good finance and good decision making for our residents. I’ve no doubt there are traditionally Conservative voters and councillors out there that are finding themselves homeless with R4U and we want to work with them to build a better Uttlesford.”
R4U - For R4U, not for you.
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