Response from Councillor Jim McNally to criticism about abstaining in the recent vote.

I feel I must reply to Peter Robbins’ letter (11 December), which appears to surrender to the illusion that no matter what people do, they will never impact on the Local Housing Plan as it will “go through, whatever councillors, or the population as a whole, may do or say.” (Peter Robbins, Comet, 30 October).  Mr Robbins, at least has been consistent in his view, which seems to be “don’t bother to try and change anything, as it is a waste of time”.  Well I disagree.  As a new councillor in Baldock, I realised the impact of this plan and suggested to the other Baldock councillors that we should organise a public meeting, to ascertain whether the people of Baldock were aware of what was planned and if they were happy with that situation.  With the full co-operation of all the Baldock councillors the meeting was held on 22 September and people were informed that as many as 4,500 houses could be built in and around Baldock, as part of this plan.  It is, I believe, due to the efforts of your councillors and the people of Baldock coming together in protest, that the number of houses in the plan has been reduced to just under 3,600 (still an enormous number, but a significant reduction).  As long as well organised and planned protest is made, pressure will continue to grow against planners and the County Council, which simply seems to want to sell off all the land it owns around Baldock for development, putting profit before people.

Mr Robbins calls me and the other two councillors who abstained, when voting on whether to put the current plan to public consultation at the council meeting, cowards; nothing can be further from the truth.  A more thoughtful and realistic assessment of our action was made by the ‘Save Rural Baldock’ campaign group on their Facebook page, which deserves repeating here:

“Having had their amendment rejected on a technical objection made by another councillor (from Letchworth) and unable to vote on it, they were put in a difficult position.  They could not vote for the plan, believing it to be flawed and unfair; however, if they voted against the plan and it was rejected, they would have been responsible for creating a situation where land developers could have made planning applications anywhere in North Herts, that the Council could not have rejected, as there would have been no plan in existence.  All the councillors are likely to face disciplinary action from the local conservative party, which could result in them being suspended from the party.  This will place them outside the main political group in the council and unable to influence, in any effective way, the further development of a proper plan that takes into account all of the people of North Herts, in particular the needs of Baldock.  We think that those councillors who abstained felt that they were less likely to be suspended than if they had voted against the plan.  The amendment was to ensure the plan reduced the overall housing numbers, listens to the residents of North Herts and gave them a plan that embraced localism.”

It must be remembered that prior to the main vote all four Baldock councillors voted for another amendment tabled, which simply reduced the overall numbers; this was heavily defeated.

The defeatism espoused by Mr Robbins is not shared by the Baldock councillors, who will continue work hard in order to influence further reductions in house numbers, both locally and in North Herts, more focus on the use of brownfield sites for development, which should, as far as is possible, not destroy the character and heritage of those areas of North Herts which make it such a desirable place to live.


:: Jim McNally


Baldock Town Ward

North Herts District Council


:: North Herts District Council  Council Offices  Gernon Road  Letchworth Garden City   SG6 3JF

01462 474000

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7 Responses to Response from Councillor Jim McNally to criticism about abstaining in the recent vote.

  1. Julian Richards says:

    Funnily enough Lynda Needham is denying that there was any Whip on the planning vote. Apparently that’s a ‘widely inaccurate assertion’. Someone’s telling porky pies here…

  2. Julian Richards says:

    And Lynda Needham is refusing to comment on whether the Conservative group will take action against those who abstained or voted no as she is too afraid this will show the type of people in charge of this process. Everyone should email and press her for comment.

  3. Julian Richards says:

    I give up! Even pleasing some of the people some of the time would be a start. Completely ignoring the vast majority of your Ward members’ wishes in order to remain an insignificant (and unlistened to) minority within a completely undemocratic decision making group still seems rather strange to me.

  4. admin says:

    SRB would like to point out that Jim McNally’s attribution of a facebook quote as being the views of SRB was incorrect. It appeared as a reply to a specific question posed on facebook and was expressed as being the views of the councillors – SRB remains politically impartial.

  5. Jim McNally says:

    Mr Richards, you so easily pour scorn on my motives, accusing me of not being truthful in order to protect my political future. Well shame on you! I became a Councillor in order to try and put something back into my local community, not to ingratiate myself into any group in order to ‘protect my political future’. I really am not thinking about any political future, just trying to do the best I can for the residents of Baldock in particular and North Herts in general. I am not standing on the sidelines sniping, but standing up and being counted. You are absolutely right that I and the other Baldock Councillors abstained in order to avoid suspension from the Conservative Group. This was because suspension would have put us out of the main decision making group in local politics and unable to have any influence on it.

    I am nobody’s ‘henchman’; I try to be open minded and look at things from all perspectives before I make up my mind. We could have voted against the plan on 27 November, which would have increased the prospect of being suspended from the party and becoming four voices among 49, with no real prospect of influencing any other voices – hardly ‘representing the interests of residents’ – or perhaps you think otherwise?

    I will continue to try to represent the interests of all people in Baldock and accept that I will never “please all of the people all of the time”; what I will do is act honestly and with integrity. As far as I’m concerned, I have no political future; I’m just trying to ensure that Baldock’s character and future is preserved for future generations. I may not succeed, but it won’t be for want of trying!

  6. Julian Richards says:

    I think Mr McNally isn’t being completely truthful. He knew from the results of amendments proposed earlier in the evening that his vote would have had no impact anyway. This was about mitigating any internal disciplinary action – to protect his political future – not representing the interests of residents. Shame on you!

  7. Julian Richards says:

    Needham and her henchmen really are bullies.

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