Horsham Lib Dem councillor quits party and becomes independent

David Sheldon, pictured in 2012
David Sheldon, pictured in 2012

A leading Horsham Lib Dem district and county councillor has left the party and become an Independent in protest at Government changes to welfare funding.

David Sheldon currently represents the Denne ward at Horsham District Council and the Horsham Tanbridge and Broadbridge Heath division at West Sussex County Council.

While he described it as a difficult decision and had nothing to do with the local group, he said he could not be a member of the Lib Dems at the same time as opposing changes to the welfare system by the Coalition Government.

Mr Sheldon is chief executive of Horsham Matters, which is fighting the Government’s decision to scrap a fund that helps the charity, along with many others nationwide, provide emergency support to people in a short term crisis.

He explained: “It’s quite hard to be seen to be part of a political movement when actually you are standing against them and the things that are being proposed and carried out.”

His resignation came days before catastrophic results for the Lib Dems in both the local and European elections last Thursday. The party lost ten of its 11 MEPs and 310 of its 427 council seats up for election in England.

Mr Sheldon said the decision had been a long time coming and he felt that politics in local government often leads to poor decisions.

He added: “Despite what people say about local politicians most people get into it because they want to make a difference.”

But he described many of the debates at WSCC’s Full Council meetings as ‘political grandstanding’, and a set piece following other meetings, most of which minority groups were not party to.

And while he praised his Lib Dem colleagues at HDC as extremely hardworking, he felt that many policy decisions were being made in secret Conservative group meetings.

He continued: “Local government is about electing representatives that help the local community have their voices heard and making decisions in the best interests of local people.

“If that’s what I really believe then it’s not appropriate for me to be a member of a political party.”

He hopes to be re-elected as an Independent at both district and county council.

Frances Haigh, leader of the Lib Dem group, said: “Lib Dems at HDC and in the local party are hugely disappointed at his decision but applaud, as always, his wish to continue serving and leading in the community that has elected him.”

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