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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 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 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.”