Councillor resigns from Uttlesford District Council

Cllr Anthony Gerard

Cllr Anthony Gerard - Credit: Archant

A Green Party district councillor’s sudden resignation has surprised local colleagues.

Cllrs Paul Fairhurst, Barbara Light and Anthony Gerard all held cabinet positions at UDC as R4U coun

Cllrs Paul Fairhurst, Barbara Light and Anthony Gerard all held cabinet positions at UDC as R4U councillors, before switching to The Green Party. - Credit: Archant

Councillor Anthony Gerard resigned this week from his seat at Uttlesford District Council.

The reason remains unclear. When approached by this newspaper, he said: “no comment”.

Colleagues in the party, in a letter to residents, claimed he felt “compelled to resign”.

Cllr Gerard was initially elected as a Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) district councillor in the local elections in May last year and he has been representing Newport.

R4U Cllr Arthur Coote

R4U Cllr Arthur Coote - Credit: Archant

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He was also portfolio holder for residents and community partnerships, police and emergency services, and switched from R4U to the Green Party in October last year.

He was joined in his move from R4U towards the Greens by previous R4U councillors for Saffron Walden Paul Fairhurst and Barbara Light.

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The move marked the first time the Green Party was represented in Uttlesford at district level.

Upon hearing the news of Cllr Gerard’s resignation, a spokesperson for Uttlesford Green Party said: “It is with great sadness that we learned of the resignation of our friend and colleague, Cllr Anthony Gerard. He will be very much missed for his dedication, determination and warm sense of humour.

Conservative Cllr Christian Criscione

Conservative Cllr Christian Criscione - Credit: Archant

“We are sure that residents throughout the district, particularly those he represented, will join us in their gratitude for all his hard work on our behalf.

“We are sure, however, that he will continue to address the climate and environmental crises with the same vigour and commitment from outside the council.

“Thank you, Anthony, and best wishes from all your friends at Uttlesford Green Party.”

In a letter to residents, his colleagues Cllrs Fairhurst and Light indicated that matters relating to the council are the reason for the resignation. This has, however, not been confirmed by the wider Uttlesford Green Party, or Uttlesford District Council.

R4U Cllr Neil Hargreaves.

R4U Cllr Neil Hargreaves. - Credit: Archant

The letter from Cllrs Fairhurst and Light said: “It is surely an indictment of this council that an individual of his calibre and commitment has found himself compelled to resign.

“His unstinting dedication to the interests of all residents and especially to those of his Newport ward has been conspicuous. His hard work especially in researching the details of the Stansted Airport and other planning applications was extraordinary, and he was instrumental in helping to win the last election for residents.

“He will be very much missed for his hard work, dedication, and great sense of humour. We are sure that residents throughout the district will join us in expressing their gratitude for all his work on our behalf. Thank you, Anthony!”

The R4U administration were surprised but a spokesperson said they would not publicly comment.

R4U Cllr Arthur Coote reflected on Cllr Gerard’s work in UDC. He said: “I think that until he resigned from R4U, he had done a good job and had been a good councillor. I think he was wrong to do that [resign from R4U].”

Cllr Coote added he felt that someone should be elected for the party they stand for.

According to administrative sources, when a councillor resigns there is no notice period, and it is highly unlikely Cllr Gerard has access to his work email.

A UDC spokesperson and a Conservative district councillor have both said they are not aware of any ‘goodbye’ email having been sent by him before the resignation.

Christian Criscione, the district councillor for Flitch Green and Little Dunmow and Conservative group deputy leader, said: “When officers have resigned in the past, we’ve received word as to why. I think most would have expected the same from a councillor, but we are yet to receive anything and may well be for a good reason.

“The Green councillors were frustrated enough to leave the R4U cabinet and now their dissolution with the council’s administration has gone a step further. You can tell that the Green councillors who once sat in the R4U cabinet are disillusioned. It’s like their hearts are no longer in it.”

Uttlesford District Council states Anthony Gerard’s seat will not be contested until May 6 next year, when the Essex County Council and the delayed Police Fire and Crime Commissioner elections are both due to take place. This is because by-elections are currently suspended.

Until then, R4U Cllr Neil Hargreaves will be the only district councillor representing Newport.

He said: “I will continue to represent Newport, Quendon and Rickling, and Widdington as a single-councillor ward until a by-election is possible. The current legislation is that this could not be until May 2021. However, I anticipate that as things improve, the restriction for by-elections may be lifted earlier.

“Our Neighbourhood Plan is with the examiner, and if he supports it carrying on to the required referendum, then it may be possible to synchronise the two”.

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