May 25 2013 Latest news:
Friday, February 8, 2013
A RADICAL overhaul of Uttlesford’s political landscape has been called for to better represent the views of residents in the district.
● Lived in Saffron Walden with his wife Pat for over 40 years.
● Previously served as a parish council chairman, school governor and cricket club president.
● Was a non-executive director of Papworth Hospital NHS Trust where he was chairman of its Charitable Capital Appeal.
● Worked in a variety of IT roles in the finance industry. Final position as chief executive of a FTSE technology company based in London.
● A keen sportsman who plays cricket, rugby and golf. Also sings with the Saffron Walden Choral Society.
Disgruntled campaigners are unhappy with the district council’s handling of controversial housing growth plans and have issued a rallying cry for sweeping changes to be made.
Saffron Walden-based WeAreResidents.org want to see party politics abolished and the cabinet system scrapped.
It follows the group’s launch of an election campaign backing a new independent Saffron Walden candidate to stand in May’s Essex County Council elections.
John Lodge, of Common Hill, insists he can make a difference to the future housing development plan being put together by Uttlesford District Council by putting pressure on the authority from county level.
● Local Development Framework – believes the way to achieve sustainable growth is to plan building and infrastructure in an integrated manner and is concerned about the Local Development Framework process being repeatedly delayed.
● Highways – specifically addressing traffic congestion, air pollution problems and access to and from the town.
● Education provision – lack of a coherent plan for eduction with the addition of extra houses. Concerns about catchment area of the County High School having to be altered so only children in Saffron Walden can attend.
● Healthcare – using his extensive experience in the field to promote better healthcare and screening in the area.
● Better sports facilities – bringing Saffron Walden Rugby Club back into town and addition of more playing fields.
■ Find out more about the campaign at LODGEyourVote.com or e-mail email@example.com.
Mr Lodge will be holding a meet and greet session on Sunday February 17 at 7.30pm in the Scout Hut on Saffron Walden High Street for residents to ask questions ahead of the elections on May 2.
The 67-year-old vowed to “properly represent” the views of people in the area after accusing existing councillors of having to toe the party line rather than acting in the best interests of residents.
“Party politics prevent councillors from representing people’s views and the problem has got worse since the cabinet system was brought in,” Mr Lodge told the Reporter.
“There are a relatively small number of councillors making decisions behind closed doors and that leaves non-cabinet members unable to express their views because they are stuck on the outside.”
He added: “Councillors shouldn’t be forced to toe the party line when it is not in the interests of those they represent or a view that they share. That happens far too often at this level and I don’t think it’s right.
“WeAreResidents are entitled to put forward anyone they like but their issue seems to be largely about housing, which is nothing to do with the county council.
“Key issues are Saffron Walden’s excellent education provision, social services, which can always be better, old people’s housing and the roads, which could be improved but with more and more traffic and increasing costs it is difficult to keep up with it.”
“It needs a number of individuals, like me, representing the views of the people.”
Top of Mr Lodge’s agenda is to put pressure on Uttlesford District Council for what campaigners have described as a “poorly-conceived” 15-year development plan. If approved, the Draft Local Development Framework would see 880 homes built in Saffron Walden between 2013 and 2028 and a total of 3,300 across the district.
WeAreResidents.org has pointed to Loughton as a blueprint for planting the seeds of change. In 1981, Loughton Residents Association put forward its first councillor to fight an application for a supermarket.
Twenty three years later it earned control of the town council by 18 members to four and, in 2010, won five new seats on Epping Forest District Council to become the main opposition group to the Conservatives.
Mr Lodge’s comments have won backing from Uttlesford’s Liberal Democrat group and a non-cabinet Conservative councillor.
Conservative Debden and Wimbish representative Cllr Tina Knight said: “I have never been a fan of the cabinet system and believe local issues should be above party politics.”
Lib Dem leader David Morson, who represents Henham and Elsenham, told the Reporter: “We have always been opposed to the cabinet system because it excludes the majority of councillors. What we liked about the committee system was that every councillor felt a part of the process and it was not just a few members involved in decision-making.”
But leader of the Conservative-run Uttlesford District Council, Jim Ketteridge, hit back.
"Councillors shouldn’t be forced to toe the party line when it is not in the interests of those they represent or a view that they share. That happens far too often at this level and I don’t think it’s right.
It needs a number of individuals, like me, representing the views of the people."
“If a situation arose where a council had a majority of elected members who had stood as an independent, that grouping would then have to form an administration, elect a leader, appoint chairmen, and decide policies and spending commitments,” he said.
“Most councils have Independent groupings and a group leader.”
Responding to concerns about the cabinet system of governance, he added: “About 95 per cent of local authorities of all political colours operate in this way. A cabinet and its leader can only operate with the consent and will of the majority of members of the council.
“In the case of Uttlesford you have one of the most successful, low tax, high quality and responsible local authorities in the country and we are justifiably proud of that fact.”