Now the appeals for 9 of the 10 East Riding of Yorkshire Conservative Councillors have been heard, of which 8 have been upheld, and where unfortunately Cllr Chuck Hunter was unsuccessful, I would like to say the following:
There has been much written, particularly in the East Riding Mail, some key points of which has been inaccurate, spurious and simply wrong. There was speculation as to there being a ‘Dirty Dozen’ Councillors who were in some way against the leadership of the Council, and Cllr Steve Parnaby in particular – this has been said to me openly by Councillors but when challenged could not name 12. Then 3 other Councillors and I were labelled by an unnamed source in the East Riding Mail as being the leaders of a deep-rooted plot to unseat the Leader and other elected members.
Nothing could be further from the truth – in fact I, along with a number of others were subject to exactly the self-same process as those members whose applications to stand as Conservatives in next Mays' Council elections initially failed. We all submitted an application form, and I was called in for an interview by the appointments panel like just the others.
I did not support the decision of the Council’s Cabinet in approving the taking of more than £360,000 of taxpayers’ money from service budgets to put into a Senior Officer’s pension fund, enabling the Officer to take early retirement under the 85 year rule.
I also did not support the Council’s position when it came to downsizing of fire cover in the Humberside Fire Authority area, and specifically in Goole.
I make my decisions in the best interests of Howdenshire residents, and the residents of the East Riding in general - but most importantly, I act according to my conscience. If my position occasionally differs from the Conservative Group position then it is entirely within the rules and the councillor’s code of conduct for me to vote against.
What is disappointing is that some colleagues perceive that Councillors who occasionally act using their conscience, and stand up for what they believe in, are considered to be traitors, and wrongly assumed to be plotting the downfall of our leadership. Fortunately the Conservative Party is sufficiently robust as to prevent any minority of rebels from having such power over the selection process.
It is ironic that on other big issues that have come before the Council such as ‘Car-parking’ and recently the new look ‘early retirement policy’- I not only supported both policies but actually stood up and spoke in favour.
I have also gone on the record publically, and stood foursquare behind the Leader of the Council on Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), one of the most difficult and controversial issues we have to resolve. Here I am certainly in a minority and find myself out of sync with local MPs and some business leaders. If I was to be moving against the Leader this would have been a golden opportunity.
I look forward to working with my fellow Conservative Councillors up until May 2011, and if fortunate to be re-elected, continuing to do so after that.