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Councillor says she was forced to resign cabinet role for acting with integrity

Cllr Hoggins (picture credit Stratford District Council)
Cllr Hoggins (picture credit Stratford District Council)

A Stratford District Councillor has hit out against her shock axing from the Cabinet last month saying she has always acted with integrity.

Cllr Sarah Whalley-Hoggins, says she was forced to resign from her role as Community Portfolio Holder after she chose to abstain during two votes at a recent Cabinet meeting.

One of these votes concerned the highly sensitive issue of whether an area of community woodland in Meon Vale should be included as a housing site in the council’s draft site allocations plan, an idea strongly opposed by residents.

In the end the site was included in the plan, which will now progress towards the public consultation stage.

Cllr Whalley-Hoggins has now been replaced on the cabinet by former chairman Cllr Christopher Kettle.

Speaking to the Herald Cllr Whalley-Hoggins said: “At a recent Cabinet meeting I abstained from two votes about matters that I felt unable to endorse. One of these was the proposal to build 350 houses on the Meon Vale woodland area which has played a vital role in local residents' wellbeing as well as being an important wildlife site. Having backed the Council and Cabinet's declaration of a Climate Emergency last year, I could not support the proposal.

“Subsequently it was made clear to me by the Leader of Council, Tony Jefferson and the Conservative Whip Jo Barker that by not endorsing the proposals I was deemed untrustworthy by Cabinet Members and was required to resign. I have only ever acted with integrity, and the interests of local residents are always at the forefront of my decisions. As a result I was forced to step down from my Cabinet position.

“Being forced to relinquish the Community Safety aspect of my portfolio to someone else has been one of the most difficult consequences and it is vital that an experienced person has oversight of these matters. As a former Police Officer I remain fully committed to supporting the Community Safety agenda to support individual residents who are victims of crime and to ensure that the District is a safer place for everyone.

“I was elected to represent and serve the people of the Stratford District. It is disappointing that I was forced to step down for acting with integrity and honour. I was not elected to have double standards or to be duplicitous.

“The support I have received from across the political spectrum has been overwhelming both at a District and County level and I would like to thank everyone both politicians and officers for their messages of support.”

Commenting on the matter Cllr Tony Jefferson, leader of Stratford District Council, said: “Sarah took the decision that she needed to abstain during the vote on these items, but what I would say is that the Cabinet is a team effort and needs to work as a team. Chris has a fantastic CV and a mountain of experience and is very much a team player.

“Sarah remains part of the Conservative group and what has happened this week in no way bars her from returning to a Cabinet position at some point in the future.”

Cllr Whalley-Hoggins will remain as ward councillor for Brailes and Compton.

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