Saturday, 16 December 2017

By-election in new year

A THIRD by-election in nine months is to be held to fill a vacant seat on Henley Town Council.

Residents of the Henley North ward will head to the polls on January 18 to choose their candidate to fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Conservative Simon Smith last month.

Mr Smith said he’d had enough of colleagues playing politics. The by-election is certain to be contested by both the opposition Conservatives and ruling Henley Residents’ Group which took control after winning the two previous by-elections in May.

Candidates have to be nominated by 4pm on December 19. Frank Browne, chairman of the Henley
Conservatives, said the branch committee was due to select its candidate at a meeting last night (Thursday).

He said: “The priority for me when we’re looking for candidates is have they got the best interests of Henley at heart? Have they got the time and energy to put in and work in the best interests of the town?”

Mr Browne said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the by-election, adding: “We’re very conscious that we suffered a real drubbing in the May elections. We have spent quite a lot time over the last few months carefully considering the causes of that defeat and looking at what we needed to do to address the root causes.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann, leader of HRG on the town council, said the party was in the process of selecting a candidate.

He said: “Democracy is an important thing and elections are a key part of democracy and so we’re very happy about there being an election.”

At the by-elections in May HRG’s Ken Arlett beat Conservative Joan Bland and Independent Donna Crook in the Henley North ward, while in Henley South ward Glen Lambert defeated Conservative Yasmina Siadatan.

The seats were previously held by Conservatives Dylan Thomas and Martin Akehurst, who both resigned.

Mr Smith’s departure means the council currently has eight HRG members, six Conservatives and one Independent Conservative.

He was elected in May 2015 for his second period on the council and was a member of the planning committee.

At the time of his resignation he said he had made the decision to resign with “some regret”. In a statement, he said: “The reason is quite simply that in my opinion being a town councillor is a job, albeit a second one, that you should do to the best of your ability. Unfortunately, if you do not enjoy your job you cannot do that.”

He claimed the council was being “unbalanced” by certain councillors trying to make “political gain”.

Mr Smith, who lives in Mount View and works at Sainsbury’s in Duke Street, has now revealed that he was “fed up” of having to toe the party line.

He told the Henley Standard that he had left the Conservative branch committee more than three months ago as he felt disillusioned. He had already stopped attended meetings and was warned that he could be expelled for poor attendance.

He said: “I did not believe they were going in the right direction or doing anything constructive.”

He singled out Mr Browne, who took over as chairman in the summer following the resignation of former councilor Dieter Hinke, and Councillor Julian Brookes, leader of the Tories on the council.

Mr Smith said: “I just got fed up with being pressured by the party to toe the party line rather than doing what I’ve always done, which is stand for the people of the town.

“It was constant emails and badgering, saying ‘right, this is what we’re going to do at this meeting and that meeting’. They were just doing it for their own benefit, both councillors and the leadership behind the scenes.”

Cllr Brookes said he didn’t recognise Mr Smith’s statements and that he was very sorry to see him go.

Mr Browne said: “I don’t recognise the picture Simon is painting and I don’t want to comment further.”

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