Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Bloom volunteer quits over ’less passion’ under new chairman

A MEMBER of the Henley in Bloom committee has resigned, blaming a lack of “passion” under

A MEMBER of the Henley in Bloom committee has resigned, blaming a lack of “passion” under the new chairman.

Volunteer Marisa Francini said the change in the balance of power on the town council after the May elections had affected the committee.

The Conservatives took control of the council from Henley Residents’ Group and a month later committee chairwoman Kellie Hinton (HRG) was replaced by Conservative councillor Simon Smith.

At a committee meeting last week Mrs Francini’s resignation was noted by members.

Speaking afterwards, Mrs Francini claimed the new committee lacked the “passion, drive and leadership” of both Cllr Hinton and her predecessor Elizabeth Hodgkin.

Mrs Francini, of St Mark’s Road, Henley, said Cllr Hinton did a “fantastic job” leading three tours of competition judges over the summer despite being demoted to vice-chairwoman.

She said: “I do not think the bloom group should come down to party politics and the change was only due to the outcome of the elections. Volunteers don’t get to vote for the chairman because only councillors get the vote.

“The change of power is a fact of life but from my perspective the drive, passion and support was not the same. I have no grudge against Simon but the passion and commitment from previous chairs was very helpful when you’re a volunteer.”

Cllr Hinton told the committee that Mrs Francini had been like “an angel” to her when she took over as chairwoman and helped her settle into the role.

Committee member Caroline Langler said: “She is going to be a great loss and it is most unfortunate she has decided to resign.

“She has done some wonderful work and spent many hours bringing in sponsorship with her expertise. She just felt she was not supported.”

Mrs Francini said: “I have achieved a lot — the [Blooming Marvellous] beer with Brakspear, working with businesses and helping with the hanging baskets.

“I feel there are now other things I can do with my time. I do wish them all the best.”

Henley won gold for the first time in this year’s Britain in Bloom competition and won the Thames and Chiltern in Bloom awards for the third year running. It also won silver in the Entente Florale Europe competition.

Cllr Smith said: “It’s her choice but [the change] was never going to be a popular move. She also pointed out lack of support for sponsorship in her resignation letter.

“I think Henley in Bloom should be nothing to do with party politics. I fought for Kellie to be vice-chairwoman and for there to be equal Conservative and HRG represent- ation on the committee. Originally it was only me, Kellie and Lorraine Hillier (Con) and I wanted David Eggleton (HRG) added.

“A change in leadership of the council meant it was bound to change but I took a step back because Kellie had done all the work and I didn’t want to take the glory.”

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