Rutland County Council leader leaves Conservative Group but will continue in top role
The leader of Rutland County Council has resigned from the Conservative Group but says he will continue as leader while serving as an unaligned independent councillor.
Coun Oliver Hemsley made the announcement tonight (Thursday), less than a fortnight after three Tories left the party to form a new political group called Together4Rutland and shortly after the polls closed in an Uppingham ward by-election.
Two other cabinet members Coun Samantha Harvey and Ian Razzell have also left the Conservative Group to serve as independents.
Coun Hemsley, who represents Langham, issued a statement.
In full, it reads: "I am leaving the Conservative Group effective immediately, but I will remain as leader of Rutland County Council, and I will continue to work with the existing cabinet, group leaders and all elected members.
"Our constitution does not require the council leader to be from any particular group and so I intend to complete my current four-year term in office.
"There are times when one questions the reasons for certain actions, and I have reached one of those times, I have been the leader of Rutland County Council for four years and we as a council have managed to deliver cost effective good quality services, this has been achieved with a changing backdrop to the world, Brexit, covid and now severe unrest in the Ukraine due to Russia’s actions, which is causing large increases in cost of living. These are all things that are happening in the world, we have a duty of care for Rutland and that is our role.
"As leader I have never used a whip I have always tried to work with everyone to arrive at a consensus of the right decision, I can assure you all that often we have had a strong debate and still found it difficult to come to a consensus but that is democracy. I sincerely believe that at this time the political argument needs to be put to one side and we need to focus on Rutland and what our residents need from us and remember who we are here to serve.
"Rutland is a very special place and the position we find ourselves in over council tax has been years in the making we had inequalities that have been compounded year on year and even though Government has been asked to look at this we have been ignored, side-lined and given no further improvements in our spending power, there are one off fundings that appear and often are heralded as additional funding but is ring-fenced, re purposed, or borrowed from another budget, this is not nor can be a solution for the long term, I hope that by having no allegiance to any party I can be blunt about the unacceptable position and hopefully get an answer to the question that I have been asked by residents: “Why is our council tax so high?”
"I continually point out that we are a low cost council we are innovative, we lead the way on many things just imagine what we could do if we had a fairer level of funding. I have not had an answer from anyone on why only you can raise more via council tax, this cannot continue as we run the real risk of becoming an exclusive ageing population with no thought for our younger and most important residents.
"Over recent months it has become clearer that we need to do what we know is right and reflects the role that we hold. Lead by example is always key and is important for us to remember. Rutland has for many years been asking for fairer funding, we don’t want more than others we just want it to be equitable, we need to be shown some respect, I know we are all busy but today we have lost sight of the reason why, I stood to represent my ward, and this week I have been told I am failing. Why is this because I have been unable to stop a housing development in the ward, we have many issues in the country and I am impressed on the one hand on what we have achieved and on the other hand deeply saddened that we continue to ignore the inequalities and the people we serve. We need to relearn the art of listening nationally and locally.
"Moving forward we have devolution, levelling up, health care, education and more all items that will need strong leadership and a consensus and reflecting on what people need, I encourage all councillors to reposition their political motivations as we all have strengths that can make Rutland continue as Multum in Parvo, and stability is what is needed at this time and for all of us to work together to protect and enhance the county we all love and hold the responsibility to represent. I look forward to continuing to serve Rutland and realise that people work with people and politics is like supporting rival clubs you can still all agree it’s a great game so let’s play fair and make Rutland the point of agreement, it is a great place that we should all be proud to represent and have a responsibility to regardless of politics."
Rutland County Council has issued further information on legistlation in response to this announcement here.