ASHTEAD INDEPENDENTS GIVEN CABINET PORTFOLIOS IN MOLE VALLEY DISTRICT COUNCIL

The local government elections on 3rd May 2018 resulted in a hung Council in Mole Valley. The Conservatives secured 20 seats, the Liberal Democrats 14, and the Informal Independent Group seven. This meant that the Conservatives lacked one seat to gain an overall majority. There was a similar situation in the years 2012-2014 when Councillor Chris Townsend became Leader of a mixed Administration. Other Councillors who served at that time, both Independent and Conservative, remember that Administration as the best they had ever experienced.

After the election in May, the Independents had intense discussions with both the Liberal Democrat and Conservative Groups, during which, it was made clear that the current Conservative Leader, who appoints the Cabinet Members, would not have to stand down at least until 2020.

In 2012, the Conservatives were 11 short –  this year they were down by a single seat. Even so, after the election, the Conservatives lacked an overall majority, and compromise was essential to avoid a minority Administration, with its possible negative impact on effective decision-making. Through challenging and strong negotiation, the Informal Independent Group has achieved the following:

  1. Three of the seven portfolio-holding positions.
  2. Inclusion of the Informal Group Leader in a new “top Executive Team” (with the Leader and Deputy Leader).
  3. Recognition that all the Informal Independent Group members could continue to vote independently.

The Ashtead Independents have now achieved the same number of port-folio holders in the new Administration as when the Conservatives were in a much weaker position in 2012-2014.

The Annual Meeting of Mole Valley District Council yesterday evening (22 May 2018) formally appointed the three Ashtead Independent Councillors to the new Administration. While we will be working as a part of that new Administration (now referred to as a Cabinet rather than an Executive), this novel arrangement means that the Ashtead Independent Cabinet Members will have influence, yet all Independent Members retain their right to vote in the best interests of residents, and not on party political lines. Rather than be subsumed, the Independents will contribute to decision-making while retaining their unique status.

The three portfolio positions have responsibilities to oversee work on the Local Plan (Cllr David Harper), Environment (Cllr Patricia Wiltshire), and Well-being (Cllr David Hawksworth) – all matters of great concern to Ashtead Residents. The precise responsibilities with the last two broad areas will be determined in consultation with the Chief Executive and Leader in the next few days.

We had pointed out that the Local Plan was of such high importance that it needed the singular attention of a Cabinet Member. We were pleased, therefore, that this was not only accepted, but that an Independent was entrusted with the task. The Local Plan will, amongst other issues, consider the type, location, and numbers of dwellings to be built in the District as well as critically evaluate any need to build on the Green Belt or other greenfield sites.

This is an opportunity for Ashtead Independents to have a major input into not only shaping the new Local Plan, but also formulating new initiatives in relation to environmental and well-being issues. All these are critically important to all of us in Ashtead and we find this an exciting opportunity to effect change for the good in Mole Valley, and Ashtead in particular.

Next year’s election may bring further changes, and the Administration can be reorganised every year but, whatever the outcome in May 2019, our aim is to advance the interests of Ashtead residents. The Independents had a resounding success in Village Ward this year and we hope for a repeat success there next year when we will be fighting to take the last Conservative seat out of Ashtead. Such a result would continue to strengthen policies that put residents first and keep national politics out of local government.

Although three of your six Ashtead Independent Councillors have new responsibilities, be assured that all of them will continue, where they are able, to act on any issues brought to their attention. Being a local Councillor is a demanding and time-consuming task, but we are all aware that were elected to serve you, and to represent Residents’ interests.

 

Cllr David L Hawksworth CBE

Leader, Informal Independent Group and Ashtead Independents

Councillor, Ashtead Common Ward

23 May 2018