Cllr Mike Jones, one time nemesis and Conservative party leader is stepping down as leader by not putting his name forward at the Annual meeting of the Conservative Group. After a year in opposition he says that he needs to step down for business reasons.
“I have too much on! I have a full time role doing consultancy works for a company in the technology sector that has grown from £300,000 in 2014 to £3 million turnover 2015 and looking to be nearly £10 million this year. My role has changed and I will become a senior member of the Management team in a few weeks time, with responsibility for all of their major projects across the country. Its a full time commitment and in March this year I decided to make a commitment to the business.”
He says that the next 2 years, with a small Labour majority are likely to be “extremely busy” for the Leader of the Group and it will not be possible to do two full time roles, so it means there is little option but to step down from his leadership role.
“It is very exciting to use my skills and experience to support a small but fast growing business to develop and grow over the next few years.” says Jones. “One of the projects that starts next week has taken 4 months to get off the ground, a £6.4 million project to deploy fibre across a county area. My background is in the utilities industry and its quite an exciting sector. ”
Mike, who is scathing in his criticism of the Labour controlled council, looked back on his time as leader and reeled off a list of his achievements. He cites the Business Quarter,the cultural centre, the Northgate scheme, the bus interchange and Baron’s Quay (Northwich) sports centres in Ellesmere Port and Northwich, and helping vulnerable people across the Borough “It’s been really hard work, officers won’t do it unless you are really strongly setting out your agenda.. If you look at the 2 applications we made to be council of the year, we won one and we were runner up in the other one. If you look at the work zones we set up, we got 632 people into work, since April 2014, 50% were long term unemployed. . We have changed people’s lives. Over 6000 people supported by integrated early support, 700 troubled families, that’s the governments definition, and over 90% of those have seen positive outcomes. Its a phenomenal achievement by the council.”
He says that under the last Labour council , the lack of maintenance led to the collapse of the walls, but that we “identified these problems and made significant investments in to our historic buildings. These are huge investments which have reversed the malaise that Labour had set into the City “. Recently under Labour however, the Eastgate walls/clock have been repaired, along with access to the Roman gardens.
I asked Mike, why if his leadership had been so successful, the Conservatives lost control of the council last May?
Mike is clear in his belief that the poor performance of the local associations was to blame. “In some cases there was no election address that went out to voters saying “these are your Conservative candidates.” Isn’t that appalling.. ” He also sees fracking as a contributory factor , but argues that the council were “neutral” on the controversial issue, citing the cross party working group which was heavily criticised by the Frack Free Upton who staged a walk out at one of the meetings.
He also says that he regrets the way the Council handled the student village application. “It was controversial, but I still believe it is absolutely the right thing to do for Chester. I think the way that played out in the planning system was wrong, because it’s now come out that actually what was being claimed in terms of required student accommodation was right as we now see the huge range of student accommodation developments across Chester, many of which should be used for housing for families.
Mike says that he expects the council to go into no overall control in the next couple of years and the time commitment would be “huge” and that he thinks “the borough could go through a very difficult period. He says that he has “not seen any new ideas that Labour are bringing to the borough”
Asked who he thought would be a good party leader who commented, ” I think that’s for the party to decide”. Candidates have until Monday lunchtime to put their names forward. .
“I have no intention of standing down as a Cllr. I get very excited by the work in the Ward. I have been involved in a huge range of projects that have made a real difference to the communities he represents. “I don’t feel sad. Actually I’m quite excited about working with a small but fast growing business. There are times when you have to move on”