Following her unexpected resignation from the post of leader of Stroud District Council today, Cllr Doina Cornell has issued a transcript of her speech, expressing support for her successor:
“I was elected leader of Stroud District Council in January 2018. During this time I have been proud to put the interests of the people of this district first, as well as the beautiful landscape within which we live. I submitted my resignation as council leader this afternoon.
“This resignation is a consequence of my leaving the Labour Party after ten years’ membership; I have written elsewhere my reasons for doing so. Suffice to say the central leadership of the Party is governed by a narrow factionalism and does not trust its local members to choose who is best to fight and win a parliamentary election. I thank all the local party members who have sent me messages of support. When I left the Party last month I informed my alliance colleagues I would be prepared to remain as council leader for the remainder of the civic year, for the sake of continuity, on the condition that I had the support of the other three alliance parties. The Labour group was not able to support my continuing as leader of the council, and therefore I have stepped down. I and my Community Independent colleagues are in total support of the Green leader Catherine Braun and Labour deputy leader Natalie Bennett that the council has elected tonight, and we are also in support of the progressive values of the current administration and the delivery of the council plan.
“I am now standing as an independent councillor and will put the interests of my community first without having to answer to the Westminster bubble. I remain a member of the Cooperative Party and a proud member of Unite the Union who fights every day for working people. I love the town of Dursley that I represent and I am grateful to all the local residents who have contacted me in support in the last few weeks.
“I am sure the opposition councillors opposite think they may have gained something from my actions but their party leadership is even more divorced from the concerns of local people than ever before at a time when so many families are struggling to make ends meet. I will continue, alongside my colleagues on this side of the chamber to hold you and your government to account. Whoever takes over as Tory party leader, is complicit in one of the worst governments this country has ever seen, endorsing cronyism on a massive scale, and presiding over the worst death toll in Europe from covid. A national tragedy.
“On a more positive note, I would like to thank my fellow alliance councillors, the Labour group I was happy to be a part of for over a decade, who taught me so much, as well as my Green and Liberal Democrat colleagues, for all your support over the years I have been leader. I am immensely proud of our track record and our cooperative values. I will for once take personal credit for what I have achieved in these four years of leading the council, especially in what has always been a top priority for me, in putting core values at the heart of everything we do – environmental justice, health and wellbeing, and equality. Our current council plan prioritises building community resilience and supporting a fairer local economy, needed now more than ever. Under my leadership we have built up a strong strategic leadership team, and put the council on firm foundations to face whatever the future may bring. And I have always kept a close eye on the finances to ensure we remain able to have resources ready to put where they are most needed. Our council is an exemplar and I am proud of that.
“I would also like to say a thank you to every officer who has supported me in my role as leader, many of you have taken a great deal of time to assist and advise me and I am very grateful to you all. I want to give an especial thank you to Kathy our chief executive. Working alongside you has been an absolute pleasure, and one of my proudest achievements will always be how you and I led the district through the pandemic. We worked all hours of the day to keep our communities safe and supported and I believe we helped save lives and ensure our district recovered more quickly from the pandemic. Being leader can sometimes be a lonely and stressful job and you have always been there for me, I hope I am allowed to say, more than just an exceptional colleague, you are a very good friend.
“When I was elected as a district councillor in 2012 I knew nothing about local government and politics. I never expected to become leader of the council and it has been an immense privilege and honour. At a time when trust in politicians is lower than ever, and we face terrible threats to our civic life from right-wing extremism, and to our planet from powerful vested interests who actively block efforts to fight climate change, we local politicians in our communities can build back and hold that trust. Local grassroots politics matters today more than ever. But we representatives are elected to serve the people, not to rule them, and we should never take that for granted.”