Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Three former town mayors to stand as independents

THREE councillors who resigned from Henley Residents’ Group are standing for re-election as independents on the town council.

THREE councillors who resigned from Henley Residents’ Group are standing for re-election as independents on the town council.

Former mayors Pam Philips, Elizabeth Hodgkin and Jeni Wood announced this week that they will be standing again.

Councillors Hodgkin and Wood are also seeking  re-election to South Oxfordshire District Council.

Meanwhile, HRG announced its own 11 candidates for election on May 7, including three existing councillors, Stefan Gawrysiak, Ian Reissmann and Kellie Hinton.

The three women were among five HRG councillors who resigned from the party in November, citing “serious conflict” internally.

The other two were Mayor Martin Akehurst and Councillor Dieter Hinke who have since joined the Conservatives and will stand for them at the election.

Councillor Phillips, who lives in St Mark’s Road, said: “We love and care for Henley. I think the three of us are worker bees and it is really hard for us to walk away from something we have been working on for many years.

“I was a founder member of HRG and was a councillor for eight years before my sabbatical and I have done another four years now. Liz has done 12 and Jeni eight, all for the betterment of Henley.” Councillor Hodgkin, who lives in Nicholas Road, said: “I have thought about it long and hard and I really felt that I did want to continue.

“I have really enjoyed being on the town and district council and feel I have made a difference and there is still lots to do.

“I always wanted to be independent and never wanted to stand for a political party and it is going to be hard without that machine behind you. It will be more difficult to get our message out.”

She added: “I do know a lot of people in the town and a lot of people know me and we have had offers of people to help with leaflets.”

Cllr Wood, who lives in Stoke Row Road, Peppard Common, said: “I was ready for a rest but I think there’s still a lot to do.

“A lot of people are standing down and I think that with a lot of new people on the council they will need people who have a lot of experience.

“I really don’t think you can be a good district councillor without being a town councillor â?? I don’t think you can convey all the right messages.”

Cllr Wood said she wanted to continue campaigning for new playgrounds to be built and to see the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan through to completion.

All three candidates have said they have no intention of returning to HRG.

Cllr Phillips said she wouldn’t go back due to certain “personalities”.

She said. “I would love it if some of those personalities would fade away then maybe it would be different.

“We can’t be bullied into doing things, that’s not the essence of HRG, that was not what I was part of starting. It was to come away from being told what to do from a party whip. We all care about Henley and getting the best for Henley and I was saddened that there was so much in-fighting, certainly not from the three of us. and some of it has been in public.”

Asked if she had been tempted to return to her former party, Cllr Wood replied: “Certainly not. I have been so disappointed.”

She said there had been “in-fighting” and “back-stabbing” within HRG, adding: “I wish I’d had the guts to take this decision to become an independent much earlier.

“I can vote now the way my head and heart tells me rather than toeing the party line. I like being independent â?? it’s abolutely wonderful with a great sense of freedom.”

There is a fourth confirmed independent candidate.

David Silvester, who blamed last year’s floods on the legislation of gay marriage, announced earlier this year that he would stand for re-election.

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