Parting shot as Haverhill councillor steps down

John Burns at The Meadows car park in Haverhill.
John Burns at The Meadows car park in Haverhill.

Damning criticism has been directed towards Suffolk County Council (SCC) by one of the Haverhill Cangle division’s county representatives as he announced he will not be standing again in the county council elections on May 4.

Clr John Burns has only been incumbent in the seat since winning a by-election in May 2016, but he has had enough.

Top of his list of grievances is a “lack of respect for people of Haverhill from the SCC leader to the elected members of this town, residents and to members of his own party.”

He also panned the “£31m of cutbacks to the people of Suffolk” and the “lack of investment in Haverhill and West Suffolk with the clear majority being directed to the east of the county.”

Cllr Burns was also disappointed with a lack of co-operation and communication to Haverhill’s elected members of the town on many subjects, including, the Great Wilsey Farm development (by Highways) and the A1307 transport corridor, to name just a few.”

He added: “Only nine out of 75 elected members ever get to vote on subjects (other than through motions and the annual budget) because of the Cabinet system, that is a clear lack of democracy.

He added: “I will be concentrating on my borough and town councillor roles where both work very well with members and officers and we can achieve a lot more locally.

“Good luck to whomever is elected. They will need it.”

In reply to criticism of him, SCC Leader, Cllr Colin Noble, said: “I appreciate Cllr. Burns did not have much traction in his extremely short time as a councillor.

“But those of us who have campaigned in Haverhill for many years want the town to be successful and capitalise on its proximity to Cambridge.

“I personally have knocked on many doors in Haverhill over the years and sort to understand the issues of the town.

“I have as Leader of Suffolk County council been to the town as a part of our #WeAreListening events and as an administration the Conservatives strive to reflect the views of residents from across Suffolk.

“The Conservative team at Suffolk County Council are a team focused on keeping Council Tax low, protecting the most vulnerable in our community and delivering economic growth for Suffolk.”

Referring to the £31m that SCC has had to cut from the budget and the accusation that more spent in the east of the county than in the swest and in Haverhill, Cllr Noble said: “The saving we have been required to make by our Government are not optional and are a part of how we get this country’s finances back into the Black.

“As a West Suffolk Councillor myself, I certainly don’t see it that way. Suffolk is a wonderful County and we seek to invest across the county so all our communities flourish.

“Suffolk County Council in conjunction with St. Edmundsbury Brough Council and the New Anglia LEP seek to continue to invest in Haverhill.

Answering the claim that there was a lack of communication and non-co-operation between SCC and Haverhill’s elected members, Cllr Noble responded: “We always aim to keep all Councillors informed as to the work we undertake in our communities and that is where local County Councillors play an important role, can we be better at this of course we strive to do so.”

And on the issue raised that the council has a “clear lack of democracy”, Cllr Noble said: “UKIP proposed a change to a committee system, this was soundly rejected by the full council not the cabinet however it was agreed that the constitution working party would look at governance arrangements and have worked for the past nine months to look at all forms of governance.

“A paper will be going in to the AGM of the new council setting out different options for the working arrangements of the council and a vote will be taken by the full council not just the cabinet.

Cllr Burns had also accused the county council of a ‘lack of guts’ in standing up to the Government cuts, a view disputed by Cllr Noble.

He said: “Whilst its a UKIP theme and sounds good as a sound bite, it’s a nonsense comment, government are the policy makers and the Treasurer currently control the funding for local government.

“Central government and local government irrespective of party has to work together to protect and improve the quality of services we all want for our communities.”

The candidates for the electoral divisions in the Echo area (one person elected unless stated otherwise) are as follows.

SUFFOLK: Haverhill Cangle (two seats): Maureen Byrne (Lab); Lewis Curtis (Lib Dem); Julian Flood (UKIP); Paula Fox (Con); Quillon Fox (Con); Ken Rolph (Lib Dem); David Smith (Lab). Haverhill East & Kedington: Oliver Ford (Lib Dem); David Roach (Con); Jason Simpkin (Lab); Ant Williams (UKIP). Clare: Robin Davies (Lab); Mary Evans (Con); Stuart Letten (UKIP); Alex Rolph (Lib Dem).

ESSEX: Hedingham: Steve Bolter (Lib Dem); Bill Edwards (Lab); David Finch (Con); David Holmes (Green); David Huxler (UKIP). Thaxted: Paul Allington (Green); Lorna Howe (UKIP); Peter Simmons (Lab): Simon Walsh (Con): Antoinette Wattebot (Lib Dem).

CAMBS: Linton: John Bald (Con), Henry Batchelor (Lib Dem); Paul Richardson (Green); Ernie Turkington (Lab). Duxford: Matthew Barton (Green); Peter McDonald (Lib Dem); Jackie Scott (Lab): Peter Topping (Con).