After the elections here in Colchester last week, the various political group leaders are busily discussing the future of the Council – who’s going to lead it, who’ll be in the Cabinet, who’ll fill the various committee positions etc There aren’t any final answers to those questions yet, but I can tell you one thing about next year’s Council Cabinet: whatever the political make-up of it, I won’t be on it.
I’m writing this piece to explain why, rather than let the news dribble out and have people make up their own reasons. The simple reason is that while I’ve enjoyed being on the Cabinet for the last two-and-a-bit years, I’ve decided to take a break from it. It’s an enjoyable job to do, but it’s also one that’s incredibly time-consuming both in terms of the number of meetings you need to attend, and the amount of time you have to put into dealing with the sheer weight of emails and information that come to you as a cabinet member. It’s been great having that responsibility, and getting a chance to shape the future of Colchester, but I feel that now is a good time to take a step back and use the time that it frees up for other things. I’ll remain on the Cabinet until the Annual Meeting of the Council at the end of this month to tie up loose ends and ensure things are ready for my successor to take over, but after that I’ll be returning to the backbenches.
What other things? On a local level, I’ve taken on the role of being Treasurer of the Colchester Free Festival, and I’m looking forward to working with the rest of the team there to help develop the festival into something long-lasting and sustainable. I’m also planning on spending more time writing, both working on my fiction and also trying to write more about local government generally, expanding on various ideas I’ve had and discussed over the last few years.
What I want to make clear, though, is that this is my decision, and it’s a personal one, not a political one. I chose to step down on my own, and this definitely isn’t jumping before I was pushed. It’s also not for political reasons. While I do have issues with the way the coalition government is operating nationally, I fully support what the administration has done here in Colchester and I’m not walking out over policy differences here. (Given that I led the writing of our local election manifesto this year, that would be a particularly self-hating thing to do) This is simply me stepping back and taking a break, not resigning or storming out in a huff. Anyone looking for scandal really ought to go elsewhere, as there’s nothing to see here.
I don’t rule out returning to the cabinet or another senior position in the future, but for now I’ll be happy to be a backbench councillor, working in my ward and doing the best I can for everyone I represent from that position. To all my Cabinet colleagues, the Council officers, external partners and others I’ve worked with, I can only borrow the words of someone much older and wiser than me: “Go forward in all your beliefs, and prove to me that I am not mistaken in mine.”