New Saffron Walden mayor pledges fight over town hall fees

The new Mayor of Saffron Walden, Councillor Heather Asker

The new Mayor of Saffron Walden, Councillor Heather Asker - Credit: Archant

The new Mayor of Saffron Walden, Councillor Heather Asker, elected as a salient member of the Residents for Uttlesford Party, has pledged to fight to put back down the rents for the town hall and fight to keep The Common free for use by families.

She also said that the town council was likely to move its offices into the town hall to save money and make better use of the building.

A suntanned Mrs Asker, who missed her own mayor-making because during the election, her husband, Martin had booked them a holiday in Minorca, said she was, nonetheless, organising the traditional church ceremony.

She said: “The town expects it.”

The Residents are the largest group on Saffron Walden Town Council with eight councillors but they don’t have an overall majority among the 16 members.

Pledging that the council would endeavour to unite the various factions, she said: “My great desire is to bring together the social groups in the town. We want to promote the town initiative and work together to think how we can best benefit the town.

“The first thing we need to do in the council is to prove that we can work cohesively as a group. It’s important that we are a non-political group and it’s my belief that many residents feel that way.”

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Cllr Asker said there was “room for improvement” in the town council’s administration. “We need to build confidence in the town council and people want to know that we can work together for them.”

Speaking on the newly reduced capacity in the town hall (see story on page 3) she said: “We can’t turn the clock back. We have to keep to health and safety guidelines, but over the past few years, there has been discussion as to how to put the town hall to better use.

“There is a lot of empty space in the town hall. There is the possibility of relocating the town council offices there from Emson Close. That would be a better use of the town hall in the long term and would be a financial saving for the council.”

Cllr Asker said there were numerous rooms in the town hall and she hoped small groups would be encouraged to use them. If rents had to increase, then that should be gradual. “I don’t want to whack up rents. I will fight to reduce rents.”

By the same token, she said she would fight to keep open the Common.

“It has been made clear that fees are to be set for businesses but these have to be realistic. If businesses want to use the common then we have to cover the cost of picking up litter and cutting the grass but we don’t want to stop people running their business. However families still need free access to it. I hope to see the usual events continue such as the Round Table bonfire and if we have another hot summer, it will be wonderful if Saffron Screen have an open air cinema there again. It is an ideal space for people to enjoy and picnic and play games.”