Sunday, 21 April 2019

Council chairman to stand as Tory in election after all

Council chairman to stand as Tory in election after all

THE chairman of South Oxfordshire District Council will stand for the Conservatives in elections in May after all.

Lorraine Hillier is one of two candidates to be selected to contest the Woodcote and Rotherfield ward on the district council.

She is currently a Henley town and district councillor but wasn’t selected by the Tories as one of three candidates to contest the Henley ward this time.

She claimed this was a “punishment” by the Henley branch of the party after she fell out with members.

She had abstained from voting at the town’s mayor-making ceremony in 2017 which prevented Conservative mayor-elect Will Hamilton from taking the post and allowed Kellie Hinton, of the Henley Residents Group, to assume the role.

She has sat on the town council as an Independent Conservative ever since.

Councillor Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street, Henley, said she was still upset at not being selected for Henley and had been planning to stand as an independent.

She said: “I was so cross that I wasn’t selected, given I had polled the highest votes last time.

“ I don’t think the Henley Conservatives were thinking about the party.

“I felt betrayed by the Henley branch because they were not looking at the party’s best interests. Henley is not an easy election to fight. Rural areas are safer Conservative seats.”

Cllr Hillier, who lives in Park Corner, Nettlebed, and has been a district councillor for almost eight years, said she was pleased to have been given another chance by the Oxfordshire branch of the Conservatives.

She said: “I got a call to say that David Nimmo Smith wasn’t standing and that another man withdrew so I was asked if I was interested in putting my name forward. I was quite pleased as the ward covers Nuffield, Nettlebed and Ipsden, so it is my patch.

“With me being chairman of the council this year, I have been around all the district and I do know quite a few people in the area.

“It was my choice whether to take it or not. I thought it sounded sensible to go for it. I do get on very well with everyone at district and they are a lovely bunch to work with.

“I feel very privileged to get the chance to represent rural areas but that doesn’t mean to say that my heart is not in Henley. It is and I still have my business here.”

Her fellow Conservative candidate is Geoff Walsh, of Wyndale Close, Henley.

Meanwhile, one of the three men chosen to stand for the Conservatives in Henley in the district council elections has withdrawn due to a career move. Will Hall, who currently represents Sonning Common on the council, is set to take on a management role with one of the authority’s contractors and felt there could be a conflict of interest.

He has been replaced by Emma Levy, who is secretary of Henley Conservatives.

The other two candidates are current town councillors Will Hamilton and Laurence Plant.

Mrs Levy, 43, of Boathouse Reach, Henley, says she will campaign to keep the town’s green spaces tidy and for eco-friendly and affordable housing to be built.

She said: “I think litter int our green spaces is something that we need to work on. I know that the town council is doing much to stop it but I am keen that this work continues, certainly at Mill Meadows where I walk my dog.

“It can also get quite unsafe at night sometimes and I will be looking to increase the police presence down there.”

Mrs Levy, who is married to Martin, a civil engineer and a coach at Henley Rowing Club, added: “Affordable housing is a tough subject in Henley because homes that are even 20 to 30 per cent less than the market value are still expensive.

“What I am looking at is ways of providing homes that are truly affordable and making sure that the 40 per cent of affordable homes that have been earmarked for Henley are built.

“I want to help make sure that the young people of Henley are able to live here and do not need to move away from the town to find somewhere they can afford.”

Mrs Levy, a former environmental lobbyist who now works as a fund-raiser, also wants to help the town, district and county councils to work better together for Henley.

Councillor Nimmo Smith will not stand again for either the district council or Henley Town Council as he and his wife Judith moved from the town to Oxford.

He has represented the Conservatives on the town council for 24 years and has spent eight years on the district council, where he has previously held a cabinet position.

He also represented Henley on Oxfordshire County Council for 12 years before losing to Stefan Gawrysiak, of Henley Residents Group, at a 2017 election.

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: “I will still be involved in the Conservatives but I have done my time and am now looking to spend more time with my family. It is time for others.

“I had to be a loyal foot soldier for the party and I was pleased to help the people of the communities I lived in.”

Mrs Nimmo Smith has also resigned her position as chairman of the South Oxfordshire Conservatives.

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