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Leader says councillors must “rise above self interest” after admitting disappointment over Lichfield Conservative member’s resignation

The leader of Lichfield District Council says he is extremely disappointed by a Conservative councillor’s decision to resign – but insisted that councillors needed to “rise above self interest”.

Joanne Grange

Joanne Grange

Cllr Joanne Grange will step down from her role in the Stowe ward after criticism over the local authority’s handling of a planning decision, warning that it had given the green light for future inappropriate developments.

She said she could not continue in her role – which she only took up in February – as she no longer felt confident in the council’s ability to represent the best interests of its residents.

Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of the Conservative-controlled council, said he would take Cllr Grange’s points about the planning process on board, but insisted councillors needed to balance their own views with those of the broader council.

“I am extremely disappointed by Joanne’s decision to resign as a District councillor and sorry that she felt unable either to speak directly to myself or another colleague to see if the issues raised could have been dealt with before deciding to resign,” he said. “I will however ensure that the issues raised around the planning policies and processes are considered as a matter of urgency.

Cllr Mike Wilcox

Cllr Mike Wilcox

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank her for her contribution in the relatively short time she has been on the council.

“I also believe that being a councillor gives you the opportunity to contribute along with colleagues in challenging and debating those areas where you think this is required, rather than stepping away and trying to influence from outside of the council.

“Sometimes as councillors we have to rise above our self interest and accept that we will not always win the particular argument, but what we do is to continue in our role.”

In a resignation letter to Cllr Wilcox, Cllr Grange said she could not continue to serve on the council while also joining residents in further action regarding the planning decision.

“I have enjoyed my short time as a councillor,” she said. “But my faith in Lichfield District Council as a democratic organisation that wants to do the best for its residents has been completely destroyed by this decision, and I am not prepared to compromise my own principles and to be associated with it.”

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6 Comments

  1. AnnS

    1st August, 2018 at 9:08 am

    Forgive the common parlance Mrs Grange but it’s better to have your enemies inside the tent p***ing out than outside the tent p***ing in. (Lyndon B. Johnson) In other words keep your friends close but your enemies closer.

  2. John Griffiin

    1st August, 2018 at 9:10 am

    Ms Grange did rise above self-interest, Cllr Wilcox. She would have been an adornment for her forensic ability, but an encumbrance to the wheels of shady development.

  3. Philip Allso

    1st August, 2018 at 9:18 am

    No one rises above self interest. Mr Wilcox is no altruist. In reality he does not need to be. All any of us should ask ourselves is “If this was happening to me would I be happy?” There are a few instances when the Greater Good might have to be considered but Cllr. Grange was representing her ward and that should be the first consideration. It is a bit too late for Mr Wilcox to adopt a holier than thou attitude to one of his party who for once was trying to do the decent thing. He might have narrowly clung on to his position by his cabinet support. I think the electorate will act differently.

  4. Joanne Grange

    1st August, 2018 at 9:33 am

    I have a number of issues with Cllr Wilcox’s response:

    Cllr Wilcox says he is “sorry that she felt unable either to speak directly to myself or another colleague to see is the issues raised could have been dealt with before deciding to resign”. He is perhaps forgetting the 4 page email I sent on 27 March where I explained the issues that were being encountering with the process and seeking advice, as a new councillor, about how I could reassure residents that the process would be followed correctly and fairly and in line with LDC policies.

    I am doubly surprised he has forgotten this, because I reminded him yesterday that I had tried to raise my concerns!

    He perhaps also forgets the subsequent meeting I had with him and a member of council staff where none of the issues I had raised were taken seriously.

    He maybe also forgets the conversation I had with Cllr Pritchard on 29 March, which I am sure was reported back to him, where I said I did not want to talk directly to the planning team about this particular application as it would be incorrect for me to have direct involvement, and that my concerns were raised about the process that was being followed rather than the specifics of the matter at hand.

    He maybe didn’t see the follow up email I sent to Cllr Pritchard on 29 March, explaining further where I felt that the process and guidelines weren’t being followed, and in particular that I felt the council had an opportunity to get the process back on track.

    He will be unaware of the many conversations I have had with colleagues on both the City Council and District Council about the planning department, and he will also be unaware of the responses I have received to my resignation letter where colleagues are agreeing with my concerns.

    The accusation that I have resigned through “self interest” is incorrect, and I am surprised that Cllr Wilcox thinks this given he knows me reasonably well. If I was focused on “self interest” it would have been easy to remain as a councillor, accept that I can raise issues but they won’t be listened to, and not challenge the status quo. I could have continued to turn up, drink the coffee and eat the biscuits and nothing would change.

    Fortunately, I am not like that. I care about Lichfield and its residents, and doing the right thing for them. Having tried and failed to raise concerns about the operations of the planning department from the “inside”, it became clear to me that the residents of Lichfield deserve better, and as I clearly wasn’t getting anywhere on the “inside”, resigning and pursuing action from the “outside” is likely to be a far more effective course of action.

  5. Debbie S

    1st August, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Cllr Wilcox.
    Being part of this planning farce for a year I can confirm that Cllr Grange has always ‘risen above self interest’ as you suggest. Maybe you are not able to spot an act of integrity when it is apparent. Maybe if councillors acted a little self promotingly and more in the best interest in their constituents Lichfield council would not be in the mess it is.

  6. James Sammuel

    1st August, 2018 at 7:31 pm

    I would like to personally than you Cllr Grange. I am not quire sure what Cllr Wilcox was inferring you acted out of self interest. It is obvious to all of us you didn’t and it is a real shame the council isn’t full of Councillors with your level of ethic and concern for the area.

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