Herts Ad Comment: End of an era as leader quits

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STOCK Generic office - Credit: Archant

With just weeks to go before a decision on whether St Albans’ troubled Strategic Local Plan should become the subject of a judicial review, it’s no exaggeration to say that the shock resignation of council leader Julian Daly could prove something of a game-changer.

Cllr Daly has always been resolute that the SLP was fit for purpose, and brushed aside planning inspector David Hogger’s suggestion that the authority had failed to meet its duty to cooperate with neighbouring councils while drawing up its new planning document.

Next month’s legal challenge has already cost council taxpayers thousands of pounds, simply because Cllr Daly refused to accept he had put a foot wrong over the planning blueprint, and ploughed ahead with proceedings to quash the inspector’s decision.

Last December the Herts Advertiser warned the ruling Conservative administration that Cllr Daly might no longer be the right man for the job of leader, and a new person at the top might be necessary to make the local plan a reality, someone prepared to listen and react to alternative opinions, instead of dismissing them out of hand.

It now appears that Cllr Daly has taken our advice and fallen on his sword, possibly stepping aside before he was pushed?

He has cited the increased workload and time which the role now demanded as the reasons for his resignation, which would have been compounded by him taking control over the planning porfolio back in May 2013.

Yet despite the obvious achievements he has claimed credit for during his tenure, the fact remains that the SLP is still in a very fragile position, and there is every chance that it might be overturned next month.

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The worrying consequences of this could be that the government will step in to impose its own plan on the district, something Cllr Daly would not have been able to stomach had he remained in power.

The new leader, Cllr Alec Campbell, has an unenvious task ahead of him should this be the case, but it may be that he decides to take a different approach to his predecessor, and open up further talks with neighbouring councils with a view to resolving the current impasse before it’s too late.

After six years of almost dictatorial leadership, there will undoubtedly be many changes at the district council over the coming months, and we wait with bated breath to see how they unfold.