South Downs independents will not contest seats in May 2015 election

JPCT 030315 S15080985x Horsham District councillors George Cockman, Steyning, councillor and Sheila Matthews, Henfield, are standing down at the 2015 elections -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150303-101511001

JPCT 030315 S15080985x Horsham District councillors George Cockman, Steyning, councillor and Sheila Matthews, Henfield, are standing down at the 2015 elections -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-150303-101511001

0
Have your say

Two long-serving independent members of Horsham District Council will be stepping down at the May 2015 elections.

Sheila Matthews, representing Henfield, and George Cockman, councillor for Steyning, have both confirmed they will not contest their seats.

Mrs Matthews, who is stepping down from public service after 32 years, has said party politics had no place in local council decision making.

She was elected as an Independent Horsham district councillor for Henfield in 1995 and before that served on Henfield Parish Council for 12 years.

She will not be contesting her seat in the May elections for health reasons.

Speaking to the County Times regarding her time on the council she believed councillors should not be swayed by party leanings.

The mother of three said: “We (Independent members) come from different perspectives. We don’t have anybody telling us we cannot say or do something.

“We follow our own common sense and problems can be dealt without having a higher authority to succumb to.

“We work with the people in the village, see what the problems are and work with them and the officers, who are incredibly helpful whatever department I have worked with.

“The officers have all been very helpful and have enabled me to get some good results for Henfield. I’ve enjoyed every minute up there. Even when there have been difficult times, there’s always been a plus side to it.”

Before becoming a district councillor she was on the parish council Henfield Parish Council and also served as the chairman of the Sussex Association of Local Councils.

She succeeded another Independent ward member and hopes Henfield voters will continue the tradition.

The current chairman of the parish council Ray Osgood said: “She’s upheld a long tradition of Independent members in Henfield.

“She’s been independent and all the better for that. As a parish councillor she held high office and was parish chairman for three years and she’s held high office at HDC where she was chairman of the standards committee and planning committee.

“She’s worked tirelessly for Henfield over a very long time, up in Horsham for 20 years being a great champion of the community for all those years.

“We are extremely proud of the work she has done on behalf of Henfield and enormously grateful.”

Fellow Independent councillor George Cockman has also taken the decision to stand down from his seat in Steyning in May. Mrs Matthews paid tribute to him saying they both honour their independence.

She said: “George taught my children as deputy head at Steyning Grammar. We hit it off immediately. We don’t ask each other how we are going to vote.

“Martin Pearson (former HDC chief executive) asked if I would be a spokesman for the Independents. It’s a contradiction in terms. There can be nobody to speak for me and I’m sure it’s the same for George. I couldn’t do it.”

In 2008 she was awarded the MBE for services to the community of Henfield and even had the privilege of receiving it directly from the Queen.

She said: “It was unbelievable. I just couldn’t think of anything to say. It was wonderful. The whole experience made you feel like you were the first and only people that has got that award.”

She now plans to spend more time with her three children and five grandchildren, who all live nearby. “I’m so proud of them. I just think I’ve had an enchanted life,” she said.

Related story http://www.wscountytimes.co.uk/news/local/praise-for-george-stepping-down-after-20-years-on-council-1-6627088|Praise for George stepping down after 20 years on council|Praise for George stepping down after 20 years on council}