Uttlesford District Council leader receives backing of members in the face of ‘no confidence’ vote

Councillors defeated the vote of no confidence in Uttlesford District Council (UDC) leader, cllr How

Councillors defeated the vote of no confidence in Uttlesford District Council (UDC) leader, cllr Howard Rolfe, by 31 votes to 10. - Credit: Archant

Last night (Thursday) the leader of Uttlesford District Council (UDC) survived a vote of no confidence, amid a meeting packed full of posturing, accusations and apologies.

The final full council meeting of the year saw Residents-for-Uttlesford (R4U) leader, Councillor Keith Mackman, bring a vote of no confidence in the council leader, Cllr Howard Rolfe, and his deputy, Cllr Susan Barker, after the Local Plan was initially thrown out by the Planning Inspector just two days into the hearing.

The vote of no confidence was defeated by 31 votes to 10, demonstrating a convincing majority in favour of keeping Cllr Rolfe as their leader – albeit following a string of attacks on both sides on the characters of councillors Rolfe and Mackman.

Cllr Mackman evinced “some sympathy” with Cllr Rolfe before bringing the vote, acknowledging preparation for the Local Plan had been long underway before the current leader was elected in June this year.

“This shouldn’t come as a personal attack on Howard Rolfe,” Cllr Mackman told the chamber, to the protestations of those claiming his Facebook page and his party’s website told a very different story.

Councillor Keith Eden said the criticisms against Cllr Rolfe were “poppycock”.

“We have a leader who is hard-working and committed,” he said, adding: “We have no option but to support our leader because we he is the best we are going to get.”

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Chair of residents’ party WeAreResidents.org, Dan Starr, told the Reporter: “With this vote the local Tories have effectively washed their hands of any responsibility for their failed Local Plan.

“But it is their Plan and no one else’s; and they control the district council. There is no one else to blame. Voters are angry and have a right to know who is going to be held accountable for the waste of millions of pounds our money.”

The vote followed a heated debated on Cllr Alan’s Dean amendment to a recommendation on how to proceed with the Local Plan working group.

Cllr Rolfe’s further amended version of this, which went through, removed the stipulation of having an independent chair present at all meetings of the group.

The cross-party, working group, will meet in January 2015. The final report on the Local Plan should be published by the Planning Inspector before Christmas.