After a decade of stable leadership, is East Herts about to change?
For years Linda Haysey has dominated the political landscape in East Herts and now she is stepping down, change is inevitable. So what can we expect?
In recent years, East Herts has been one of the most stable Conservative authorities in the whole of Hertfordshire holding 50 out of 50 seats in 2015 and 40 out of 50 in 2019 – despite passing a District Plan which included 18,000 new homes across the authority in the subsequent 15 years.
That is about to change. In 2019, six Liberal Democrat councillors and two Green Party councillors were elected in key areas – Hertford and Ware. These groups have been very effective in arguing against the principle and detail of development locally, bringing to the fore concerns residents have had for years.
Combine this with the wider concern about the Conservatives, and it looks like electoral politics in East Herts is likely to be much more competitive than it has been for many years. Despite that, we expect the Conservatives to hold on with a much reduced majority.
The Conservatives will be facing different challengers across the District, as the Lib Dems are poised to run a tight contest in Bishop Stortford, whereas it’s the Green Party that has the administration worried in Hertford. Despite this, the Conservatives have indicated that their vote appears to be holding up better in the villages than in the towns.
The question then becomes: what will the new administration look like? There has been much speculation, but the front runner for the leadership is considered to be Cllr Jan Goodeve. Cllr Goodeve is currently the Portfolio Holder for Planning and has generally been constructive with developers. However, her seat in Hertford is vulnerable to the Greens, and she may not be returned.
An alternative is Cllr Bob Deering, the current chair of the Development Management Committee. An extremely capable and well respected chair, Cllr Deering has steered the committee wisely through some very significant decisions. He is changing ward to take over Cllr Haysey’s Hertford Rural seat so is likely to secure re-election safely.
Another notable runner is Cllr Eric Buckmaster, one of three who helped steer the allocations in the District Plan and the Executive Member for Environment at Herts County Council (with responsibility for the controversial Minerals Plan). This time around he is standing in the safer Sawbridgeworth seat, rather than Hunsdon.
The decision will be made post election – we’ll keep you updated.