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Conservative councillor won’t seek re-election – and warns “leadership is more important than ever” at Lichfield District Council

A Conservative councillor says he will not be seeking re-election to Lichfield District Council – and has warned that the leadership of the local authority is now “more important than ever”.

Cllr Ben Rayner
Cllr Ben Rayner

Cllr Ben Rayner is one of three Tory representatives for the Alrewas and Fradley ward alongside Cllr Margaret Stanhope and the local authority’s leader, Cllr Mike Wilcox.

But he has now decided to only stand for parish council in May’s local elections – and will not be under the Conservative banner.

Cllr Rayner told Lichfield Live: “I will not be seeking re-election for the district council in 2019.

“I am planning to seek re-election at parish level, but this would be as an independent, as we need more people willing to enter local level politics and I fear the party structure at parish level puts people off.

“I hope as many people as possible stand as candidates for their community to help make a difference.

“Everyone works together for the good of the community at parish level so any party loyalty can wait at the doorstep.”

His move echoes a suggestion of his Conservative colleague Cllr Doug Pullen who urged all parties on Burntwood Town Council to ditch their party groups in order to better represent their communities.

“Leadership is more important than ever”

Cllr Rayner said he hoped any future leadership of Lichfield District Council would take swift action to find a way forward for the land earmarked for Friarsgate.

The former Tempest Ford site, part of the area earmarked for the failed Friarsgate scheme
The former Tempest Ford site, part of the area earmarked for the failed Friarsgate scheme

The long-awaited city centre development scheme collapsed after a decade in the planning when it emerged only a fraction of the required funding was in place.

And Cllr Rayner warned that any future leadership team would need to steer the ship into positive waters.

“I have enjoyed my role as a district councillor and hope I have been able to influence change,” he said. “But I am truly gutted that the Birmingham Road scheme has not been started in my term of office.

“I hope that the pressure remains on whoever wins office in May to get the site sorted and moving as soon as possible – it is a great site and superb opportunity for the city.

“Leadership is more important than ever.

“For now I look forward to focusing on the end of my term of office and spending more time with my family and day job.”

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13 Comments

  1. wilf

    20th March, 2019 at 11:45 am

    It doesn’t take much reading between the lines to work out what the councillor is saying… won’t stand as a Conservative at LDC, will stand at parish but as an independent against the current leader of LDC who also sits on the parish council, and then makes a key comment on the need for good leadership.

    Doesn’t say much for the leader does it.

  2. Ben Rayner

    20th March, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Just to clarify that I am a Parish Councillor on Armitage with Handsacre Parish and hope to continue to be. The Leader of Lichfield DC is not on my Parish Council.

  3. Stowe Resident

    20th March, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    Shame to lose a young councillor. Pleased to see more candidates considering independent roles at local levels though!

  4. Cllr Sue Woodward

    20th March, 2019 at 2:54 pm

    It’s a great pity that LDC will be losing Ben. He’s a bright, capable, engaged and clued-up member and LDC is certainly the loser here. It’s been a pleasure to work alongside Ben, I hope this won’t be forever and I wish him well for the future.

  5. Cllr Richard Cox

    20th March, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    I will also be seeking re-election to Armitage with Handsacre Parish Council and like Ben not under the party I represent because I have for the last 18 months or more have concluded listening to people in my Village that politics has no place at Parish level in the current 3 tier council system in the Lichfield District. I know many people who would serve on the Parish Council if the party politics was removed and now is a good time to take that lead and in time encourage those interested in serving the Village the opportunity to do so.

    I wish Ben every success on 2nd May and hope that I will also be re-elected having served on the Parish Council since 2003.

    I’m very sorry Ben is not standing for LDC but respect his reasons to spend more time with his family and concentrate with his employment career. I look forward to welcoming Ben back to the fold when the time is appropriate.

    I take this opportunity to confirm that I will be standing for Lichfield District Council as a Conservative were my loyalties remain having served Armitage with Handsacre for the past 16 years.

  6. Steve Norman

    21st March, 2019 at 9:36 am

    I remember my first Parish Council.
    I wasn’t challenged when a vacancy occurred. The small council, where at least 4 out of the 5 were in fact members of the Conservative Party and meetings were held illegally in a farmer’s kitchen – not in the two public buildings available at that time!
    Thanks to early Labour Party education opportunities I managed to get them moved – and legal – though members of the public were resented if they had the audacity to turn up to view proceedings. Two years later they also were forced to fight an election for the first time in history of the parish (probably).
    In other words declaring yourself “independent” doesn’t necessarily mean that. It can – but it is not guaranteed.
    A better way.
    The Leader of Lichfield District Council, and I think we can infer Ben would like it to be someone other than his current Ward colleague, can best be helped in another way – by good scrutiny.
    Labour’s best reform to local government was to introduce the Cabinet and Scrutiny model. Members of a Scrutiny Committee must declare a whip if one is applied and so they act – and vote if asked for – independently.
    In my time on scrutiny committees both at County and District the whip was never used by Labour. I would have opposed it if it was tried.
    The key is good and properly resourced scrutiny by members in opposition and particularly by members of the controlling group.
    That has been weakened both at County Council and at District level by the Conservatives in Staffordshire. No longer is Staffordshire County Council recognised nationally as a leading council in good scrutiny and Lichfield District has followed suit.
    I would like Burntwood Town Council to bring back the scrutiny committee – to be chaired by the Leader of the Opposition – for the benefit of good government.
    Burntwood could lead the way back.

  7. John Griffin

    21st March, 2019 at 9:46 am

    Tell that to Burntwood Tories. To fill the casual vacancies, in the absence of Cllr Pullen, the two people who live in the respective wards were voted down in favour of last minute non residents who didn’t even present a speech – two sentences in one case. Of course, it was a party vote as both unsuccessful candidates were Labour members. Regardless of the rules, at parish level you should be a resident. Alas, in the current state of affairs, there aren’t enough people interested, so we get the absurdity of former Cllr Rigby, 2 years a Cumbrian resident. What is worse, attendance normally is quite poor (no expenses?) . There also needs to be an influx of much younger people as there is only one younger person (Cllr Fisher Jnr). A conundrum or a moribund situation that cries out for a sensible solution?

  8. Joanne Grange

    21st March, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Like others have commented I think Ben will be a great loss to LDC. I do, however, find it absolutely fascinating that Conservative councillors are choosing to stand under the “independent” banner and seeking to distance themselves from what is clearly becoming seen as a toxic brand.

    However, given the issues the blue team currently has with transparency in respect of disclosing interests is this going to present problems? Is it disingenuous to present oneself as an “independent” when really you are a fully paid up member of a political party?

    I’m assuming party membership will be disclosed on the relevant register of interests forms but as this is after the event it could come as a nasty surprise to voters who believed they were, in fact, electing an independent candidate. If it waddles like a duck…

    As a “true” independent candidate I’d like to publicly assure residents of Chadsmead that I am not a member of any political party and when I call myself independent it’s because I truly am.

  9. Richard Cox

    21st March, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    For clarification I’m not standing for Parish Council as an independent, I’m standing as an individual by my name alone with no reference to independent or a political party. It’s for the Parish Council elections only and I will continue to be a member of the Conservative Party as indeed I seek re-election to LDC as a Conservative Party candidate therefore not in anyway distancing myself from them.

    I truly believe at Parish Council level there genuinely is no place for party politics

  10. Michel Souris

    21st March, 2019 at 6:43 pm

    Richard Cox – if party politics or affiliation has no place at Parish Council level, why cannot it be the same at LDC level? The Tories have made a dog’s dinner of running this Council and, maybe, independent-minded individuals could work together to run the District in a more constructive way without the limitations imposed by Party politics. I am in favour of independence from party affiliations as the tribal views restrict thinking.

    If she was standing in my ward – Leamonsley – then I would consider voting for Joanne Grange. As it is we have Tory councillors who never show their face and who are, no doubt, complacent and arrogant enough to assume they will be a shoo-in on May 2.

  11. Dave King

    22nd March, 2019 at 9:05 am

    Well said Richard. Political obsessions hold everything back. This is not Westminster!

  12. Philip Allso

    22nd March, 2019 at 11:54 am

    When push comes to shove Dave King it is highly improbable that Richard Cox would forgo his political convictions regardless of circumstances. Local level politics should be more inclusive be it parish or city level. One way of achieving this is by proportional representation. As we are experiencing at national level in the House of Fools politicians do not always mean what they say or do what they mean.

  13. John Griffin

    25th March, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    Alas, where I live in Highfields ward, Cllr Pullen is standing as it is a shoo-in. The rest of local Tory high command do likewise, while preaching cooperation etc.

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