Thursday, 05 August 2021

Fears over bloom bid after boss replaced

HENLEY could be with–drawn from representing Britain in the Entente Florale competition after the chairman of Henley in Bloom was

HENLEY could be with–drawn from representing Britain in the Entente Florale competition after the chairman of Henley in Bloom was replaced.

The news comes as the town celebrates the purchase of a record–equalling 171 summer hanging baskets by shops, businesses and residents.

Councillor Kellie Hinton has been demoted after the Conservatives took control of the town council at the elections on May 7.

Cllr Hinton, a member of Henley Residents’ Group, will remain a member of the committee, which will now be chaired by Tory Simon Smith but will have only three councillors instead of five. She said she was concerned the move could affect Henley’s entry into Entente Florale, a Europe in bloom competition.

She said: “The chair needs to be putting in between 10 and 40 hours work every week and if the new one is not willing to do that we may have to pull out.

“Lots of people have put in a lot of work and sponsors have supported us.

“Now there has been a shift in power and things have changed but I hoped it could stay non–political. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

“If the new chair is not able to commit to the work needed then we are screwed.”

Peter Holman, Henley’s mentor for the competition, said he was “extremely unhappy” at the changes at such a “late and critical stage” and he would be “reluctant” to give any more support.

Mr Holman, who is also a Britain in Bloom judge, said: “In my view petty politics and party rivalry has no place in a completely nonâ??political, community and environmental competition.

“Any new person taking on the role of chair, presenter or leader will not have been briefed or know anything about how Entente Florale works and what is expected when the jury visits.

“They will have no knowledge of the briefings we have or the plans we have made.”

Before the election, the committee had five councillors – Cllr Hinton, former mayor Martin Akehurst (Con), who was re–elected and Independents Jeni Wood, Pam Phillips and Elizabeth Hodgkin who all lost their seats.

Now it will be made up Cllr Hinton, Cllr Smith and the new Conservative Mayor Lorraine Hillier.

New councillor David Eggleton (HRG), who has worked with the committee as a representative of Gainsborough Residents’ Association for the last two years, has refused to sit on the committee as a co–opted member instead of as a councillor.

Henley is the first UK town to enter Thames and Chiltern in Bloom, Britain in Bloom and Entente Florale in the same year.

Cllr Hinton said: “It has taken years to build up to this point – hours and hours every week.

“Now the committee has been reduced from five to three and we have two people sitting on Henley in Bloom who haven’t done so for years.

“I can’t believe they have cut the number of councillors. I hope it gets changed at full council because it’s disgusting that people who want to be involved are being turned away.

“Dave has worked incredible hard for two years – whenever we needed any help he was the first person I would go to.

“I do not blame him if he does not want to sit as a co–otped member because he has been elected as a councillor and should be able to vote. He should be on Henley in Bloom as a councillor.”

Cllr Eggleton said: “If this was a business you wouldn’t sack the people who helped to make it thrive.

“The Conservatives coming on to the committee should work alongside us, see how it works and then take over after the competitions.

“You wouldn’t put someone with no experience in charge of business as it was going into the biggest thing it has ever done.”

David Nimmo Smith, the Conservative group leader, said: “The Conservatives intend to put forward Simon Smith to be chairman.

“He is fully aware of amount of work that is required. I do not think changing the number of councillors has any bearing on the competition entry”

More News:

POLL: Have your say