The chairman of Wealden District Council has stepped down, as she prepares to begin “actively campaigning” to become an MP.
On Thursday (January 4), Green Party councillor Christina Coleman announced her resignation as chairman of Wealden District Council ahead of the next general election, in which she will be standing as a candidate.
In a statement, Cllr Coleman said: “It really has been an honour to serve the community by engaging as far and wide as possible with different organisations, charities, schools and individuals.
“I am particularly proud of having spoken with more than a quarter of schools in Wealden, about the importance of nature recovery in a time of climate and biodiversity crisis.”
Cllr Coleman had been selected as Green Party candidate for the new constituency of East Grinstead and Uckfield last year — something which had come in for criticism from Wealden’s Conservative opposition due to the “impartial” role of council chairman.
Conservative councillors had called for Cllr Coleman’s to resign last September to avoid a conflict of interest in her dual roles. For its part, The Alliance for Wealden — the Green/Lib Dem coalition which currently controls the council — denied there was a conflict as Cllr Coleman had not been “actively campaigning” when in her position as chairman.
In a statement at the time, Mims Davies, the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for East Grinstead and Uckfield, said: “By remaining in the position of chairman, Cllr Coleman could tarnish the reputation of the office, which must be strictly politically-neutral.
“I would urge Cllr Coleman to weigh up what is right and we will all watch with interest.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Gavin Blake-Coggins will act as interim Chair, until a successor is appointed at the next Full Council meeting (currently due to be held on February 21st).
The Alliance for Wealden says it will be nominating Jessika Hulbert, Green Party councillor for Withyham ward, as Cllr Coleman’s replacement.
While resigning as chairman, Cllr Coleman will continue as ward councillor for Danehill and Fletching.
Council leader James Partridge (Liberal Democrat) praised Cllr Coleman’s time as chairman.
He said: “Cllr Coleman has been an outstanding chair, and we are extremely grateful for her passion and commitment to representing the council to so many people.
“We are sure her successor will be equally as dedicated to the community and look forward to confirming their appointment in due course.”
The date of the next general election has not yet been formally announced, although Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly told journalists last month that “2024 will be an election year”.