Thursday, 19 July 2018

Ex-Mayor resigns to take some rest

A FORMER Henley mayor has resigned from South Oxfordshire District Council in order to rest.

A FORMER Henley mayor has resigned from South Oxfordshire District Council in order to rest.

Martin Akehurst, who won one of the two seats for the Sonning Common ward in May, has stood down on the advice of his consultant.

However, he has not resigned from Henley Town Council from which he is currently on "gardening leave" for the same reason.

There will be a by-election for his district council seat next month.

Councillor Akehurst, whose year as mayor ended in May, has been on leave from his council duties since June because a dormant growth in his neck was "playing up".

The 66-year-old Conservative councillor said: "The tumour is a rare one but it’s not growing. There are only nine like it in the UK.

"My consultant has dealt with all nine people. He said to me, ’the other eight do not do this. We know it’s not growing but my advice would be that you back off from the council and have a good rest’.

"Two or three years ago I had problems with the tumour and had to take some gardening leave. It has kicked off again so the consultant has suggested that I need some rest to let it settle down.

"It’s frustrating. I was elected, along with Paul [Harrison], with a thumping majority and it was a difficult call because a lot of people voted for me.

"I do feel guilty but at the end of the day I’ve got to look after my health."

Cllr Akehurst, who lives in Two Tree Hill, Henley, first withdrew from town council duties in November 2013, when he was deputy mayor, on the advice of his specialist.

He returned in February 2014 after being diagnosed with the tumour on the artery in his neck and was made mayor less than three months later.

Cllr Akehurst, who recently returned from New York, where he celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary with his wife Glynnis, said he would discuss his situation with the ruling Conservatives on the town council next week.

"As far as town goes I am on gardening leave," he said. "I need to discuss it with the party and then we will work out what happens.

"I do miss the council and it’s very tempting to get involved even though I am on leave."

John Cotton, the Conservative leader of the district council, said: "It’s really sad. Martin took a leave of absence, which is absolutely the right thing to do, and tried to deal with his illness.

"When we’ve had conversations he said he was finding the stress of doing both roles too much.

"He has made the right decision to step back to sort out his health. I hope we will see him back on the district council."

The by-election will be held on October 22. The Conservatives have already chosen Will Hall to stand for them.

Mr Hall, son of BBC director-general Lord Hall, was a district councillor representing Henley and cabinet member for finance until he lost his seat at the May elections.

He said: "I was clearly disappointed not to be re-elected in Henley. I was one of the youngest council cabinet members in the country.

"Whilst I was in the cabinet I reduced council tax and put money into key services like planning and recycling. I want to get back to serving the people of south Oxfordshire.

"Martin did an amazing job. He was a brilliant mayor and we’re good friends. I wish he wasn’t stepping down."

Cllr Akehurst was a serving town councillor for Henley Residents’ Group when he and four colleagues, including three former mayors, resigned from the party in November, blaming "serious conflict" internally.

All five then stood as independents until Cllr Akehurst and Cllr Dieter Hinke joined the Conservatives in February.

At the elections in May, Cllr Akehurst was the only one of the five to be re-elected.

Mr Hinke is now interim chairman of the Henley branch of the South Oxfordshire Conservative Association.

The Sonning Common ward includes the villages of Binfield Heath, Harpsden, Shiplake and Sonning Common.

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