Lone Lib Dem Richard Stevens to step down

Richard Stevens
Richard Stevens

A LONG-STANDING cou-ncillor is leaving over frustration at the lack of power his party has on the council.

Richard Stevens announced this week he will not be putting himself forward as a candidate at the local elections in May. His present four-year tenure also comes to an end and he also said family commitments made him reach his decision.

Cllr Stevens, who is the only Lib Dem councillor on the borough council, said: “By the time of the next round of local elections, I will be in my 30th year as a local councillor. I also reach retirement age and I have many other calls on my time.

“My reasons are both personal and political but at this stage of life I need to be sure that I am making optimum use of my time.

“I feel that I cannot achieve anything under the present system which operates in the town hall. The power is concentrated within a very small circle and as the only Liberal Democrat I am given precious little opportunity to influence anything, which is frustrating to say the least. We had 20 per cent of the local vote at the last round of local elections and yet we are denied any say under the present arrangements.”

Cllr Stevens has been Mayor of Hastings three times, council leader, and chairman of East Sussex County Council.

He represented Broomgrove ward for 19 years, Hollington and Ashdown at the county council, and is currently the borough councillor for Old Hastings.

Cllr Stevens was twice a parliamentary candidate and a member of the Labour Party since 1969 before moving to the Liberal Democrats, mainly in protest at the Iraq War.

High points in his political career he said were his involvement in getting Priory Meadow Shopping Centre in Hastings.

He said: “It was a catalyst for bringing in regeneration to Hastings.”

Cllr Stevens also added his time as Mayor was another high point for him.

He added: “Most people know that I am involved in a number of charitable organisations both here and overseas and I intend to continue with that work. I am not saying that this is it politically forever. It is in my blood so if the time is right in the future, you never know.

“I just want to make the best use of my time and have been proud to represent Hastings for a substantial period of my life. But there comes a time when you need to evaluate, especially when you move into ‘Last of the Summer Wine’.”

Cllr Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council, said: “The Labour group has given Cllr Stevens a place on the scrutiny committee and the Conservatives, a place on the audit committee, which has the power to examine every single aspect of the council. I am sorry if he feels he has been overlooked.”