A look back: Residents Administration delivers on election promises in solid first year of delivery

Residents for Uttlesford has announced that in its first year in office its Residents Administration at UDC has delivered on many of its major election promises at the same time as reshaping the council and taking difficult decisions. R4U’s John Lodge and Petrina Lees recap the first 12 months.

John Lodge (R4U) John Lodge (R4U)

R4U Chair Cllr John Lodge, who is also Leader at UDC, said “In the biggest landslide in the country, last May local residents elected us to fix Uttlesford District Council. After a decade of failures and £millions of wasted council taxes, residents were quite rightly fed up of complacent Westminster party politicians who had forgotten who they worked for. However we believe that a big part of our success was our positive and progressive agenda for our district. R4U has spent our first year at UDC taking big decisions and changing the council into one that works hard for residents.”

Cllr Lodge continued “The new council took the significant decision to draw a final line under the previous Conservative administration’s second costly failed Local Plan to be rejected by Government inspectors. We will instead build a new plan that actually meets the needs of residents. It will use evidence to decide the best places for new homes; prioritise required infrastructure first; have effective local control by residents; and tackle housing affordability. In the meantime we have started our process of re-engineering how planning is done at UDC. The council has already won a series of high profile appeals to stop the worst developments, and now more firmly holds housebuilders to account.”

Petrina Lees (R4U) Petrina Lees (R4U)

R4U’s Cllr Petrina Lees, Deputy Leader at UDC, added “The expansion of Stansted Airport to the size of Gatwick was waved through by the previous council administration who ignored important evidence. It would have been disastrous to our local and national environment and was not a fair deal for our district. In a landmark UK decision, we were able to reverse the planning approval. Other councils followed our lead and halted airport expansions in their own areas.”

Cllr Lees continued “The airport directly affects our environment as do many other things. More needs to be done on climate change. Soon after we were elected we joined other UK councils in declaring a Climate and Environmental Emergency. In support we committed to a broad range of sustainable eco-policies for our district over the next decade.”

R4U’s Petrina Lees added “Over the last few months UDC and its officers have stepped up to the challenge of the Covid-19 Crisis and we could not be more proud of their efforts. More than £16m in grants have been distributed to local businesses – and in fact we have received special recognition from government for doing so rapidly and efficiently; 2000 council tax support claims and hardship grants were handled; and more than 2200 queries were processed by the council’s new virus support line. While this extra activity was going on, the council’s existing services continued to operate uninterrupted for the most part. There will be a lot of ongoing work to help our local communities and businesses rebuild.”

R4U Chair Cllr John Lodge concluded “It is critical that UDC is put on a sound financial footing. We inherited a £3.6m financial hole at UDC and we’ve been making great progress at remedying it; but this will take time and careful management. The additional costs of dealing with Covid and loss of income have seriously impacted the council’s finances. We still need the government to make good on their promises to reimburse UK councils.”

“None the less, we have an ambitious and comprehensive residents-focused agenda that will continue to improve democracy, governance, transparency and service delivery for local residents. We look forward to sharing more about that with you shortly. Thank you for trusting Residents for Uttlesford with your vote a year ago. We hope that you can see that your Residents Administration at UDC is working hard for you every day.”