Saturday, 21 July 2018

By-election candidate upset after rejection by residents' group

A WOMAN says she is standing as an independent candidate in a forthcoming Henley Town Council by-election because she was not chosen to represent one of the town’s main parties.

Donna-Marie Crook says she feels she has been “stabbed in the back” after Henley Residents’ Group chose former mayor Ken Arlett as its candidate for the Henley North ward seat ahead of her.

She had already failed to be chosen to represent HRG in a second by-election in the Henley South ward, losing out to party membership secretary Glen Lambert.

Ms Crook, of Abrahams Road, Henley, joined the party in February in the hope of securing a candidacy after campaigning to save Henley’s bus services when Oxfordshire County Council announced plans to cut its subsidies.

She quit the group after Mr Arlett’s selection, claiming he was the wrong choice because he has previously switched his political allegiance.

Mr Arlett, a co-founder of HRG in 1989, had most recently been a member of the UK Independence Party before rejoining HRG just before his selection.

Ms Crook said she felt let down as she had called publicly for the resignation of Conservative councillor Martin Akehurst, causing the by-election in the South ward, which she believes helped HRG’s cause and should have been recognised.

She said: “I had made clear that I would be very unhappy if HRG chose someone else because I’m very proactive and therefore a good candidate.

“Ken has stabbed me in the back by putting himself forward and HRG has only chosen him because he has won before and it believes he is more likely to win again.

“I did something that helped them and now he’s taking the benefits of that.

“They’re desperate and only care about getting into power. It’s a very backwards decision. I feel I have to stand as an independent because I care passionately about the town.

“I was the only one marching against budget cuts in Oxford in 2015 and I will continue campaigning if I’m elected.”

Mr Arlett said: “Although the party spoke to Donna, no promises were made about who would be the candidate. We were both interviewed and I came out the best.

“It was explained to her that she had only been with the party a short time and she was encouraged to stay until the next full election in 2019, when there would be a better chance of being selected but for whatever reason she is going her own way.

“I think she has cut off her nose to spite her face and is making a mistake. I can’t see her reasoning beyond wanting to damage HRG.”

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, a member of the HRG executive committee, said: “HRG feels that Ken Arlett is absolutely and utterly the right choice for Henley. He has a long-standing track record over many years, including recent ones, of championing Henley matters.

“He took a pivotal role over two years in the development of the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan and has also taken great interest in the bus campaign.

“Anyone who knows Ken understands that his heart is absolutely in Henley. His blend of dedication and enthusiasm means that he is the right person for the job.”

The other candidate in the seat is Conservative Joan Bland, a former town councillor and still a member of South Oxfordshire District Council.

The vacancy was caused by the resignation of Conservative councillor Dylan Thomas after he took up a civil service job that required him to be politically impartial.

In the Henley South ward seat, the Conservative candidate is businesswoman Yasmina Siadatan, who won the BBC’s The Apprentice programme in 2009.

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