Local News

Councillor resigns from local party

Thursday 17 December 2020

A county councillor has resigned from the local Conservative Party after he failed to win reselection.

Cllr. Andrew Stevenson, who has represented Hertford  All Saints ward since 2013, resigned from the party after he failed to win reselection for next year's county council elections.

Hertford & Stortford Conservatives have issued a statement following Cllr.Stevenson's departure.

The Conservative Party is a democratic organisation and its members have the right to choose the candidates who represent them in elections at all levels.

Andrew Stevenson had the opportunity to put his case to local party members in an online meeting last week, along with two other candidates. This process was mandated by the national party in response to current covid restrictions and included a three hundred words statement from each candidate sent out in advance.

In a secret ballot those members chose not to reselect Cllr Stevenson as their candidate for the county council elections in May 2021 and chose Jan Goodeve as the official Conservative candidate. The following morning Cllr. Stevenson submitted his resignation from the party.

Had Cllr. Stevenson remained a member of the party he would have had the option of appealing this process if he wanted to do so.

While we regret his decision to leave the party, Hertford Conservatives respect that choice and would like to thank him for his service as well as wishing him well for the future.

Hertford & Stortford Conservatives

Cllr.Stevenson has been a strong campaigner on local issues such as Bengeo Quarry, traffic congestion, planning and sustainable towns. He has recently been working with local residents formulating a Neighbourhood Plan for the area.He will continue to represent the constituency as an Independent until next year's elections on Thursday 6th May 2021.

Aska Wisniewska-Pickering, chair of the Stop Bengeo Quarry Campaign, said: "Andrew Stevenson has been incredibly helpful and supportive to the Stop Bengeo Quarry campaign from the very beginning. His local knowledge and expertise were invaluable in resisting the application to turn Bengeo Field into an urban quarry. He was also instrumental in getting Bengeo Neighbourhood Plan off the ground, supporting the local community and looking for practical solutions."

Following the statement released by Hertford  Strortford Conservatives, Andrew Stevenson has responded with his own statement:

The statement that was issued [by Hertford & Stortford Conservatives] without my knowledge or consent refers to what I had thought was a private process and not in my opinion democratic in any meaningful sense of the word. The person selected by the local Conservative party process is responsible for East Herts District Council planning activity - a conflict of interest that would have undermined Bengeo Quarry fight.

I resigned from the local conservative party because in my opinion, the culture no longer respects or supports community initiatives as evidenced by several recent behaviours. My reason for becoming a county councillor was to try to get things done for the community I have lived and worked in for over 30 years. I concluded that it was impossible for me to continue as a Party member with a clear conscience given what I see its culture to be. I will continue to actively support the community initiatives I have been working on as an Independent County Councillor. These initiatives include:
  • support for a better urban environment with 20mph for Bengeo Street and Ware Rd
  • support for open green spaces - such as fighting Bengeo Quarry and helping Beane Marshes purchase by the Wildlife Trust and buying Bengeo Field for the community
  • support for Hertford (County Town) to develop as a regional cultural hub by founding Hertford Arts Hub to celebrate our most famous painter - Alan Davie - and create a public art gallery, our latest project being the subway galleries with Herts Highways.
  • Support for Neighbourhood Plan activity developing genuine local democracy
I think over complexity in local government has become a problem. This breeds sycophantic apparatchiks. This fails to support the local community and breeds shadowy internal meetings. East Herts District Council apparatchiks failed to support the local community fight against Bengeo Quarry and instead gave ammunition to the developers by including the site in their local plan. I founded Bengeo Neighbourhood Area Plan committee because I felt residents needed a better local voice. This was listened to by the Quarry Planning Inspector. East Herts District Council has also failed to come up with a coherent parking planning policy and this has now led to Hertford being dropped from the Sustainable Travel Town Scheme which I supported.

I support rationalising local government, abolishing needless middle tiers, reducing sycophantic aparatchnikism, eliminating internal conflicts of interest and giving more weight to Neighbourhood Plan groups. Bengeo Neighbourhood Plan Group has grown into a genuinely democratic voice. Modern information systems render out of date council structures obsolete.

The pandemic has brought out the worst in some people and the best in others. I have found Cynthia Stroud to be an inspiration – she was an early winner of Hertford Entrepreneurs Award who went on to TV fame – then this year pivoted her business Pretty Gorgeous Jams to set up a Bengeo based charity, Jedidiah, providing tens of thousands of meal portions (many at her own expense) for families with children at school facing hard times due to the impact of lockdowns on private sector businesses. Her organisation won Lloyds Bank National Business Award as joint best "Pivot to Covid" alongside Lewis Hamiltons F1 team for Ventilator Engineering.

These are very difficult times for very many people and it is better to focus our energies on positive initiatives to support our community and hope that a brighter future will emerge for us all in the New Year - and perhaps with a more rational system of local government!

Cllr Andrew Stevenson

Hertford is currently represented by two county councillors, Bob Deering (Con) and Andrew Stevenson (ind).

Updated 21/12/20 to include comment from Aska Wisniewka-Pickering and statement from Cllr.Andrew Stevenson.

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