West Sussex County Councillor for the Horsham Riverside division Morwen Millson has stepped down as the Liberal Democrat county group leader following the recent election results.
The party lost 10 of its 18 seats across West Sussex in the county council elections on May 2 making it the joint third largest party behind the UK Independence Party, which is now the main opposition at County Hall with 10 seats.
The election saw the Conservative Party losing just one seat on the council and Labour picking up three. Following this defeat Mrs Millson said that after eight years as group leader it was time for a change.
She said: “I was thinking about stepping down anyway. Eight years is a long time for anyone to do the job, but having said that the message of May 2 may be that we need a change at the helm. I’ve enjoyed being leader. The gains we had four years ago is a highlight, which make May 2 results all the more desperate.
“As group leader watching people grow as councillors gives you a great feeling of satisfaction. When people make a good speech in the council chamber often it’s because of taking advice. When you grow as councillors we also grow as a group.”
In a letter published in full on page 28 she thanked voters for re-electing her fortnight ago when she won her seat with a comfortable majority.
She said: “I know that many people who tend to vote Labour in national elections supported me both this time and in the past.
“I am particularly grateful for their support in this election, as, in nearby Roffey, where the Labour vote increased significantly, the Conservatives gained the seat from the Liberal Democrat candidate, Warwick Hellawell.
“I would like to assure residents of Horsham Riverside Division that, following my re-election, I will continue to work for them all over the next four years.
“I already have a number of issues in my ‘in tray’, such as the ongoing planning issue of the Silver Wok in St Leonards Road and the traffic issues in roads around Heron Way School and how they can be eased if the proposed extension to the school goes ahead. So I think the next few weeks will be busy.”
Dr James Walsh (Littlehampton East) has confirmed he has taken her place as group leader. It is a post he held for five years from 1997.
He said was ‘very humbled and pleased’ to be elected leader by his county colleagues, but acknowledged these are tough times for them.
“These are very challenging times. We now have a four party system compared with a three party system after the success of UKIP. The way the county electoral system works exemplifies that.
“Clearly there’s a mood in the country which is anti all politicians and it may be the reason for the rise in UKIP votes as the protest party.
“It’s going to be a challenge to reconnect with the public and talking about things they want and not just what politicians want.”