I am a current member of the CCA Local Government Board and am standing for election as its Chairman in succession to Sir Merrick Cockell, who has completed his maximum three-year term.
I was first elected as a Borough Councillor in 1982 and am now Leader of Hertfordshire County Council, Chairman of the County Councils Network and Chairman of the East of England Local Government Association. I am a former parliamentary and European Parliamentary candidate.
Eric Pickles has been kind enough to invite me to join his weekly meetings with three other leading Conservative Councillors (including Merrick) and I understand well the importance of having an open and frank dialogue with Ministers. Now that our Party is in Government, maintaining this crucial conversation takes on a different character than before – but it is all the more essential.
As Chairman of the CCA, I would work closely with the Conservative Leadership on the Local Government Association and London Councils to secure a coherent and clear national voice for all Conservatives in local government – which is particularly important when the other political groups in those bodies combine in taking an anti-Conservative stance.
In addition to securing its influential position with Ministers, the CCA must continue to provide support and guidance for our thousands of councillors across the land, whether in control or opposition; of whatever tier and type of council. Every one of our Conservative Councillors is expected to be a member of the CCA (and to pay the annual subscription of £30!) and the Board must ensure that they think they get value for their money.
Talking to councillors around the country, many have no idea what the CCA does and, accordingly, some resent having to pay the £30. I believe the CCA does give good value for money, but I also know that the new Board has to be more effective in communicating its offer and in being responsive to its members’ views. With 9,000 councillors spread across the country, this will not be easy, but it must be a key priority.
The CCA must offer our councillors the support they need to do their job as local representatives but must also provide top quality campaigning support to our candidates in what are likely to be even more challenging elections over the next few years. The Board draws on the excellent professional support at CCHQ, but its own members need to be experienced and effective campaigners. Having acted as election agent in local, parliamentary and European elections – and having been an honorary consultant to the former Local Government Department at CCO – I would bring substantial experience to this part of the CCA’s role.
Commentators expect us to lose many seats and councils over the next few years. I am determined that the CCA will do everything it can to prove the pundits wrong so that we remain the largest and most effective body of locally elected representatives in the land.