EXCLUSIVE: Six York Labour Councillors Standing Down in 2015
11:08am 8th July 2014
(Updated 4:16pm 8th July 2014)
Minster FM can reveal a total of six Labour councillors in York will stand down in the 2015 elections. Fiona Fitzpatrick, Sandy Fraser, David Horton, Ruth Potter and Anna Semlyen will continue in their roles until the elections in May. Joe Riches announced in May he would stand down as a councillor to take on Conservative MP Julian Sturdy in the York Outer seat at the general election.
It means almost half of Labour's 2011 councillors will not stand in the same seats next year. Following the defection of Lynn Jeffries to the Liberal Democrats, long serving councillor Brian Watson's decision to go independent and David Scott, Helen Douglas and Ken King not being selected in the new Clifton ward.
Minster FM also understands Cabinet Member for Finance Dafydd Williams was not selected to fight his Westfield ward seat, however despite repeated requests York Labour has not confirmed or denied this. The party does say that Dafydd Williams will stand for Labour at the election but party chair Viv Kind said she could not comment on the selection process in individual wards.
York Labour says it will be campaigning to win control of York Council again and emphasises that councillors of all parties decide to stand down at each election for a range of reasons. The party also says it is currently selecting candidates for next May's election and that once a candidate's competence is established, a decision will be taken by members in each ward to choose their candidates.
Fiona Fitzpatrick, who has represented the Hull Road ward since 2011, said "I am standing down to return to a career in education that will include helping to set up literacy projects in disadvantaged inner city areas in the USA. It has been a privilege to represent the residents of Hull Road ward and I will continue to work with my fellow Councillor Neil Barnes in this role until the election next May".
Ruth Potter, who has represented the Heworth ward since 2003 and stood as the Labour candidate to be Police and Crime Commissioner in 2012, said ”I have thoroughly enjoyed representing local residents in the Beckfield and Heworth areas of the City and want to thank them for their support. However, I have decided that after 16 years service and after returning to full time work I need a change so that I can follow my other interests and hobbies. It has been a wonderful experience being part of the Labour Group and I wish all my colleagues good luck in the future”.
Anna Semlyen, who has represented Dringhouses & Woodthorpe ward since 2011, and played a leading role in the roll out of 20mph zones in York said “I am a yoga teacher and work many evenings. Councillors also attend evening meetings. It is a work life balance decision for me to stand down from the Council”.
After many years on the Council, Councillor David Horton and Councillor Sandy Fraser would now like to focus on other activities and interests.
Chair of the York Labour Party Viv Kind said “Whilst City of York Labour Party is sorry that these well regarded councillors have decided to stand down, we support them fully in reaching their decision. We are very grateful to all these councillors for the huge contribution they have made to the city on behalf of Labour. No matter how long they have served on the Council, each of them has worked with unrelenting commitment and enthusiasm to represent the residents in their wards and for York”.
POLITICAL OPPONENTS REACT TO MINSTER FM EXCLUSIVE
York Conservative leader Chris Steward gave his reaction to the news, telling Minster FM:
"Councillors Fraser, Horton and Potter are councillors I have frequently disagreed with but they have worked hard over the years for their residents and leave with my very best wishes. Residents will however view Cllr Semlyen’s brief tenure with suspicion with many having criticised the council’s spending of vast money on blanket 20mph zones. Campaigning for more 20mph zones is something she is paid for and there will therefore be much scepticism that she is leaving the council after ‘job done’ on the expensive implementation of a policy when residents would rather the money had been much better targeted on roads and road safety."
"More generally with the current Labour Group operating a ruthless whip system that is inappropriate for local politics I fear Labour are replacing principled independent thinkers, with inexperienced people who will follow a line dictated for them by Cllr Alexander and a few others in the cabinet."
York Lib Dem leader Keith Aspden claims York Labour are in "complete disarray":
“Today’s news confirms the complete disarray Labour are in locally. Nearly half of the Labour councillors residents elected in 2011 have already either chosen to stand down or been de-selected. It appears that York’s Labour leadership are trying to replace experienced and independent-minded Labour backbenchers with political ‘yes-men’ who will toe the party line. Residents want councillors who fight for the local community, Labour seem to want councillors who are there to give James Alexander an easy time.”
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