The decision by Cllr Nigel Clarke to leave the Liberal Democrats and defect to the Conservatives has left me and many of his former friends and colleagues feeling very let down and disappointed because we have worked closely with him and supported him over a number of years and shared many highs and lows.
In his resignation letter to me he says that the Liberal Democrats have been too keen to oppose for opposition's sake rather than work for the good of Brentwood and it's residents. However this claim is hard to take seriously when you actually consider the facts. Two examples that immediately spring to mind are the future of the Town Hall where we have been working cross party with others to try and find a viable solution going forward and the parking review where following Cllr Clarke's input and advice we fully supported the Tory recommendations, many of which originated from the Lib Dems. These examples more than prove the point that where we have agreed with the Tory administration we have been prepared to support what they were doing and have certainly not always opposed for opposition's sake.
What the Lib Dem group has always taken very seriously is the responsibility of being the only credible opposition in Brentwood to the Conservatives. Time after time we have held the administration to account and constructively challenged them if we believed what they were doing was wrong for the Borough. In contrast the sole Labour representative has often sat on his hands and said nothing on a whole range of issues including the recent failure by the Tories to get the accounts signed off on time. I appreciate that the stance taken by the Lib Dem group may not have always been to Cllr Clarke's liking and I respect his position, but he should always remember it was the Lib Dems who stuck with him on getting the multi storey car park re-opened on a Sunday and it was the Lib Dems who pushed hard for the Lighting Up Event to go back to a Saturday when many of his new Tory colleagues didn't want to know.
In his resignation letter Nigel also says that his beliefs and values are now best represented by the Conservatives. Knowing him as I do I find that statement very hard to believe but now he has made his decision I hope for his sake that the Conservative party locally and nationally meets all his expectations.
Contrary to what Eric Pickles and other Tories have said, I believe Cllr Clarke's departure has left the Liberal Democrat group in a stronger position. We now have a group that is united and more determined than ever to stay true to the residents who elected us and make sure their voices are heard. For those residents who don't want Brentwood to become a one party Tory state the Liberal Democrats are there to represent you and rest assured we will.
Cllr David Kendall
Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group
Brentwood Borough Council