Thursday, 18 August 2022

Possible by-election after town councillor quits due to new job

A BY-ELECTION may be called after the resignation of a member of the ruling Conservative group on Henley Town Council.

Dylan Thomas, 38, of Northfield End, Henley, announced his immediate departure on Friday.

The former Army intelligence officer has accepted a new senior role in the civil service so had to drop any political commitments. He had been working in IT sales.

He was elected in the town council’s North ward in 2015 and was a member of the planning committee and the finance strategy and management committee as well as its traffic advisory group.

He campaigned for traffic-calming measures on his street after his car was wrecked twice by speeding drivers in separate incidents.

Mr Thomas said: “As I explained to the town clerk in my letter of resignation, I am very sad to go but following a change of career I am required to be politically impartial. I considered remaining as an independent but I felt this would send out a confused message.

“As much as I have enjoyed being a town councillor and felt proud and honoured to serve my community, my circumstances mean that I am unable to continue.”

Mr Thomas said he was particularly proud of the council’s support for Henley rugby and cricket clubs, which received funding towards improvements to their grounds, and its £100,000 grant to Henley YMCA, which will help the charity to buy the lease on its accommodation off Lawson Road.

He added: “Being a councillor was a very positive experience and I’m sad that I won’t be part of the council’s transport strategy as it continues to grow but hopefully it will make some big improvements to the town and the local environment.”

He said he would be based at Whitehall for his new job but he and his wife Clare and their children, Archie, three, and six-month-old twins Phoebe and Hennie, would continue to live in Henley.

Mr Thomas said: “It’s a lovely town and I hope my role is taken by another parent with young children as that demographic is under-represented at the moment.

“It’s no fault of the serving councillors as I suppose it’s easier for older people with fewer commitments, but I think that insight is important on issues like road safety.

“I would absolutely recommend a position in local government to anyone who is in a position to take it up. It is a great privilege and very rewarding.”

While in the Army, Mr Thomas became a captain and served in Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan. He received three medals from the Queen and a fourth from NATO for his work analysing enemy intelligence in Kabul.

Henley Mayor Julian Brookes, a former submarine officer in the Royal Navy, said he and Mr Thomas had a good relationship because of their military backgrounds.

He said: “I think we had a better understanding of each other than other members of the council may have done.

“He was very keen on correct procedure and would often call others to account with regard to our standing orders. I will miss him very much but life moves on and we will simply have to find a replacement.”

Dieter Hinke, chairman of Henley Conservatives, said: “Despite having a job that required a lot of travel, Dylan made a huge effort to talk to people in his area and was a good representative for them at council.

“It is unfortunate that he cannot continue to serve but the new job is right for him and we wish him all the best as well as thanking him for his contribution.”

The vacancy is being advertised until the end of this month. A candidate may be co-opted unless South Oxfordshire District Council receives a written request for a by-election signed by at least 10 residents.

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