This week my good friend Martin Pantling has resigned as a councillor on Luton Borough Council which means that there will be a by-election in the Barnfield ward.
Martin is resigning so he can take up a new career opportunity which is incompatible with his role on the Council. As he himself says (in a statement on the local party website);
“It has been a great privilege to represent Barnfield residents for the past ten years during which time I have met many people and made some good friends. I am taking up a new role which makes it impossible for me to continue as a Councillor, and so have reluctantly had to step down.”
During those ten years Martin has been a very conscientious representative of the interests of Barnfield residents and a powerful, if sometimes strident, advocate of the Liberal Democrat cause. His intelligent and determined scrutiny of council decisions have often been uncomfortable for council officers and opponent politicians alike. This has not always made him popular and he’s been seen as a particular thorn in the side of the Luton Labour Party. So much so that two years ago they tried to throw him out of his position on the old Police Authority. Incidentally, in his role on that body he has done important work in ensuring that Bedfordshire Police have been operating efficiently and that their finances have been properly scrutinised.
Personally Martin and I have often clashed – we have had a tendency to be quite argumentative with each other – but there has always been a spirit of friendship. I have enormous respect for Martin’s integrity and commitment.
While it is likely to be welcomed within the Labour Group — his resignation will leave a large hole in the effectiveness of the Council and will leave Luton’s politics much poorer.
The by-election will take place on the 17 October 2013.
At the last local elections I stood with Martin as the second Liberal Democrat candidate in Barnfield and I missed out, to Labour, on getting elected by just 14 votes. So if that is any guide the by-election is likely to be a very closely fought contest.
For the avoidance of doubt, because several people have already asked me, I will not be a candidate. The local party is going through the process of choosing their candidate and I believe there will be an announcement shortly.
This content was originally posted on my old Strange Thoughts blog.