Hitchin MP Bim Afolami clarifies claims he accused North Herts District Council leader of not caring about town

PUBLISHED: 08:24 24 October 2017

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami. Picture: Danny Loo

Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami. Picture: Danny Loo

Danny Loo Photography 2017

Hitchin’s MP Bim Afolami has moved to clarify claims that he accused the leader of North Hertfordshire District Council of not caring about the town.

Councillor Lynda Needham, leader of North Hertfordshire District Council. Picture: NHDCCouncillor Lynda Needham, leader of North Hertfordshire District Council. Picture: NHDC

The 31-year-old Conservative gave a brief speech during the Hitchin Business Breakfast on Wednesday last week, a day after meeting the Tory-controlled council’s leader Councillor Lynda Needham.

According to Comet sources, Mr Afolami said Mrs Needham – who represents Letchworth South West – had appeared not to care when he told her people in Hitchin didn’t think the town was well served by the Letchworth-based district council.

Speaking to the Comet yesterday, the MP said: “That isn’t what I meant to say. If I did, I apologise for saying that. Hitchin needs a stronger voice and I’m happy to support that.”

Mr Afolami said that numerous people across the town, from all walks of life, had come to him with concerns about Hitchin’s position in local government.

He stood by the contention that the district council was of a different view.

He said: “What I said was that I think a lot of residents see a need for a stronger Hitchin voice at North Herts District Council. I do think that North Herts weren’t overly keen on that.

“It was in context – there is a case for Hitchin to have a stronger voice. I support anything that would give Hitchin a stronger voice, and that’s where I was going with that.”

Mr Afolami said he envisioned Hitchin’s “stronger voice” coming about through some wider restructuring of local government, while admitting that as an MP this was outside his control.

“If in Hitchin they want to do things that affect Hitchin only, how can they do that? That’s what I’m keen on supporting,” he said.

“At the moment it doesn’t seem to me that North Herts District Council are particularly keen on that, but I think that’s quite important.”

Asked how Mrs Needham had reacted to the comments he had made at the business breakfast – a regular Hitchin Initiative event – Mr Afolami said he had not spoken to her since. He said their conversation last Tuesday had been mostly about planning.

Mrs Needham, 68, was first elected to the district council in 1996 and has been council leader since 2010. Mr Afolami was comfortably elected to the Hitchin and Harpenden seat in June’s General Election, replacing long-time incumbent Peter Lilley.

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