'Disillusioned' councillor quits after 20 years

A former Preston Mayor is quitting the city council after almost 20 years, claiming rank and file councillors no longer have any say.

Friday, 30th March 2018, 2:43 pm
Updated Friday, 30th March 2018, 2:45 pm
Christine Abram is standing down as a councillor

Tory Christine Abram has revealed she will not stand for re-election in May, saying she is disillusioned with the way the Town Hall is run.

“The Labour cabinet makes all the decisions and the majority of councillors don’t feel like they are part of the process any more,” she revealed.

“When I started in 1999 it was a million miles away from what it is now. I no longer feel involved.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Coun Abram, who represents the Lea ward, is the second councillor to quit in the last two years feeling they no longer had a role to play in the authority.

Independent Terry Cartwright stood down in 2016 after 26 years, frustrated that the city was being run by a six-man Labour cabinet.

Now Coun Abram is following suit and admits “part of me is sad, part of me will miss it.”

But she went on: “Most councillors are more isolated now, we don’t see each other apart from every six weeks when we attend the full council meeting.

“There was a time when we were involved with all the committees and we felt like we had a role to play and were part of something.

“But not anymore. It’s all done and dusted by the cabinet and there’s no respect anymore.

“It all hit home to me one day when I was in the council chamber and a Labour cabinet member said to me: ‘There are more of us than you, so we make the decisions.’

“That more or less summed it up for me. No matter how hard we try, they are the decision makers and we really don’t have any influence.”

Coun Abram added: “I’ve enjoyed my time on the council, it’s been a wonderful experience and I feel very lucky to have been there for almost 20 years. I had a fantastic year as Mayor.

“But it isn’t the same any more. They are just chipping away at everything, things like the office of Mayor, and there doesn’t seem anything anyone can do about it.”

In response, Coun Martyn Rawlinson, who is a cabinet member, said the Tory led scrutiny committee is in place to hold cabinet decisions to account.

He said: “Most councils opted for the cabinet system when local government reorganisation took place in 2001. Most councils went for it and it has been that way since.

“If people don’t like that they can campaign for change and councils are able to change their structures.

“In a council where one party has a majority, they make the decisions and make policy.

“And it is difficult for opposition members, I know it is because we were in opposition between 2007 and 2011 but we did actually put forward a few proposals that were adopted by the Tory cabinet.

“It can be done but it’s just harder and I think some backbench members are quite happy for the cabinet to take much of the responsibility.”