EXCLUSIVE: Tory insider speaks out against 'Conservative clique culture' at North Herts District Council – and calls for leader Lynda Needham's resignation
PUBLISHED: 11:50 16 February 2017
An anonymous Conservative councillor has shared concerns over failures and overspends and called for the current North Herts District Council leader to step down.
The insider also criticised a prominent councillor for his apparent ‘arrogance’ in believing he will be re-elected as a councillor – and has spoken of the party having a ‘culture of cliques’. Both claims have been staunchly denied.
North Herts District Council leader Lynda Needham has been criticised by the Comet’s source inside the party for being unaccountable, offering ineffective leadership and presiding over numerous project failures costing the taxpayer extra millions – and the anonymous councilor has called for her resignation.
They told the Comet: “The buck stops with Lynda Needham.
“She has been in charge of so many expensive fiascos and overspends including the ongoing saga of Hitchin museum as well as the town hall shambles and Churchgate.
“There is also a culture of cliques. If you’re not in the inner circle you are not told anything.
“I just want to help people I represent, but I am not being given the chance because of vital information which is being witheld from me and others. She is simply not a team player – it’s time for her to go.”
The anonymous source also said that Councillor David Barnard had dismissed the electorate by being confident of re-election for Hitchin Rural in the forthcoming Herts County Council elections, saying: “Behind closed doors David Barnard has been so cocky about the fact he believes it is a formality that he will be re-elected. He is literally laughing at the electorate.”
In response, Mr Barnard said: “Bearing in mind what’s happening all over the world, I don’t think there’s such a thing as a safe seat and I’ve said that publicly many times.
“I’m certainly not cocky and am not laughing at the electorate – I will be doing everything I can to keep my seat. I do it because I love it and I believe I can make a difference. I’ve been a councillor for 26 years and I want that to continue.”
Mrs Needham last month voted through a 19 per cent pay rise for herself, with fellow Tory councillors agreeing to an independent panel’s recommended hikes of more than 10 per cent – which their Labour and Lib Dem counterparts voted against. She has since indicated she may return it, but there has been no confirmation yet.
Mr Barnard shocked onlookers at the district council’s budget meeting last week when he shouted: “I will not return my pay rise!”
The district council has yet to respond to a request for comment.