I’m proud to be Independent

I would like to thank everyone who has supported the Mayoralty of Lewes this year.

I was proposed for this office by the Liberal Democrat Group at the Town Council, supported by the Green Group and also the elected Independents and unattached Councillors. I have been an elected Independent at Town and District since 2003 and at County since 2005, for much of that time as a lone member with no group, or at most in a group of 2 or 3, so I have always gained committee places, or more lately civic office, as a result of the support of at least one of the large groups on any of the councils.

At County at the moment for example, I hold committee places through the kindness of both the Labour and the Conservative groups, above and beyond the places that would be given to the group of 3 elected Independents I lead there.

I have also become Vice Chair of Health Overview Scrutiny at County with the agreement of all the other groups on the council; Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, UKIP and Independent Democrat. It did not mean I would be voting in any vote for or with any of these groups.

Never in all my time as an Independent Councillor have any places on any committee or any civic office been offered to me on the basis of my giving the group who made the offer a vote.

I would not accept an offer made on this basis. So it came as a surprise to me that the Liberal Democrat group and their supporters would make such a suggestion when the Conservative group at District proposed me for Vice Chair there, especially as the Liberal Democrat group knew that I would not accept the offer of being proposed for the Mayoralty of Lewes at Town unless and until it was made with no strings attached.

The offer at District was made on the basis of over a decade of service to that council, having already been Vice Chair once.

The vote on the leadership of the District Council was the second challenge to the Leadership in a few months.

I voted, not ‘for’ any party but ‘against’ the challenge because this seemed to me the least worst option on the basis of all the information available to me. Anyone wishing to go through in detail exactly why I made this decision is very welcome to contact me and I will answer any questions you may have.

I voted against a leadership challenge made by a group that now includes the previous leader of the group being challenged, who was a major architect and advocate of the Special Expenses tax his new group are against. A change of leadership at this point would not have meant that this tax was removed.

I will continue to do everything I can to remove the Special Expenses tax for Lewes Town residents, in practical terms. If reversal of the policy is not possible then there are a number of ways of reducing the amount that Lewes Town residents end up having to pay and I will pursue them all, hopefully with the support of other Lewes Councillors at District.

So, I continue to be, and am proud to be, Independent of any political party and determined not to be bullied or deflected by party political nastiness from any quarter. My aim is and always will be as an elected member to work for the people of the Town, District and County that I live in as their Councillor, and to do so in a practical, helpful and non party political way.

All of the recent fuss just serves to underline the negativity that party politics at its worst is so largely composed of.

Ruth O’Keeffe

Independent Town and District Councillor, Lewes Priory Ward
Independent County 
Councillor, Lewes Division