CANTERBURY City Council leader John Gilbey has announced that he will stand down at the next election. The councillor, who represents Blean Forest, said he will not stand for re-election in May. Mr Gilbey, who has led the council since 2007, said the achievements the council had made during his time as leader were “staggering”, but admitted he had some regrets. He said:
“I think if you look at the work the executive has done over the eight years I have been leader it is staggering what has been achieved. There is a lot people don’t see, such as the work to create a council that is not member-led, or officer-led, but people working together. We have a proper relationship with officers where members have the fmal say but with co-operation to get things done.”
But Mr Gilbey admitted he had regrets, including the Westgate Towers traffic scheme, which had hundreds of people complaining about congestion and the loss of pedestrian crossings at one of the city’s busiest junctions.
“Four years ago I said I wanted to deal with congestion and pollution in the city and that simply has not worked. Several streets did significantly improve in terms of pollution during the changes, and there was money available to do other things like traffic lights at the Wincheap roundabout.”
Mr Gilbey’s time as leader was sometimes controversial. In January this year, the police were called to a council meeting, after activists brought a petition with 3,500 signatures calling for his resignation, and that of other executive members. Unsurprisingly, other members of the city council have been less enthusiastic about Mr Gilbey’s time as leader. Alex Perkins, who leads the second-biggest party on the council, the Liberal Democrats, said Mr Gilbey had left the district in a worse condition than when he had started. He explained:
“When you consider the number of houses that have been built… I give him very little credit at all.”
Mr Perkins also pointed out that the council was moving away from the executive-led council system Mr Gilbey had championed, leaving no place for him.
“John’s style of government was government by diktat, and the people of Canterbury Herne Bay and Whitstable have indicated that they do not want that, so he had to go.”
But other people who have been critical of Mr Gilbey in the past were more forgiving now that he has announced his intention to call it a day. Ukip leader David Hirst said their past differences were “water under the bridge”, and Debbie Barwick, who organised the petition calling for Mr Gilbey’s resignation, thanked him for his services to the city. Mr Gilbey has said he will now spend more time with his grandchildren and travel the world with his wife, Carol.
Herne Bay Gazette, November 19th 2014