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Cllr Andrew Johnson, Leader of Harlow District Council announces resignation.

04 Oct Cllr Andrew Johnson, Leader of Harlow District Council announces resignation.

Council Andrew Johnson has this morning announced his resignation as Leader of Harlow Council. He made the following statement:

“I have been hugely honoured and privileged to be able to play my part in helping our community for nearly a quarter of a century, firstly being elected as a councillor in 1998 at the age of just 21, then as Leader of the Conservative Group and then finally and incredibly to become the first Conservative Leader of the Council in the town’s history.

“I was so grateful to the people of Harlow for their faith in me and my team, that earlier this year, we regained control of Harlow District Council with the largest number of councillors that we have ever had. It seems a very long way since that May evening in 1998 when I alone was the only Conservative representation in the whole of Harlow.

“Of course, being elected in my early 20’s and retaining the leadership ever since has not come without some large personal costs. Whilst I do not begrudge for a single second being able to serve my community, it is entirely fair to say that doing so whilst holding down a full-time job, gaining career promotion, getting married, starting a family and even undergoing a kidney transplant has not always been easy. I had made my mind up some time ago, in discussions with my family, that I would resign as Leader of the Conservative Group in my 25th year of service.

“Then came the pandemic.

“Over the course of the last couple of years we have all lived through the most extraordinary of times. Given it was so soon after my transplant I was termed Clinically Extremely Vulnerable and was forced to shield with only my immediate family. Like so many others as this pandemic has begun to pass, I have had the opportunity to reflect, pray and reprioritise, realising now more than ever how precious and just how fleeting life can be.

“To this end, it is with a heavy heart that I have chosen to resign as Leader.

“There are so many dreams and aspirations that I have put on hold to best serve the residents of Harlow and I feel now is the appropriate time to pursue some of these. Working as I do for the NHS, there are huge pressures on us following the pandemic that will take much time and effort to resolve; I want to play my party fully in that endeavour with my fantastic team at Addenbrookes and that will require an even greater call upon my time. Equally, I think after almost a quarter of a century the time has come for to devote much more of my time to being a husband and father.

“I will always be hugely proud of the achievements we as Conservatives have managed to deliver for our residents with the help and commitment of not just the current crop of Conservative Councillors but with the many that have served with me throughout the last two and a half decades. I thank them all for their kindness, support, loyalty and professionalism, often in the face of very tough moments for our town.

“Looking back over the last couple of decades, we took a council which had been formally labelled ‘poor’ by the Government and was in peril of being run centrally by a government Inspector, working collaboratively with other parties, to become not only a ‘Good’ council but were shortlisted as ‘council of the year’. We rescued the Town’s finances and brought us back from the brink of bankruptcy.

“We were able to influence both the local, regional and national growth agenda working with our MPs, stakeholders, partners and the local community to develop and promote Harlow, brining an Enterprise Hub and a University Campus. We lobbied for a brand new hospital, first class educational provision and made it possible for public bodies such as Public Health England to want to relocate to Harlow at the heart of the UK innovation corridor.

“We have always understood the jewels in the crown for Harlow and have preserved, protected, and enhanced much loved council services such as the Playhouse, Pets’ Corner and the Museum giving them autonomy to become more self-sufficient by opening up new revenue streams. We protected and continue to protect all of these services by being more efficient against a backdrop of a low council tax policy and indeed the first ever Council Tax cut in our towns history so that people could keep more of their hard-earned money; I know that the group will wish to keep cutting council tax where they can.

“I am tremendously proud of all these successes and so many others. When I entered politics all those years ago, I had a very simple stated aim. I wanted to help people and make Harlow a greater place to live, work and socialise; I believe that I have delivered on that and with the Governments levelling up agenda I believe a very bright future lies ahead for our Town.

“I want to thank the wonderful residents of our town who have consistently placed their faith in me, the hardworking staff of the council and my colleagues, in all political parties who have, politics aside, always managed to show kindness outside of the council chamber.

“Despite all of our successes there is still much work to be done and shortly the Conservative Group will meet after our Party Conference to elect the new Leader of the Group and the New Leader of the Council; in the interim Cllr Joel Charles as Deputy Leader of the Group will act as interim Leader of the Council.

“I wish my successor the greatest success and tell them in advance that the work is hard but ultimately hugely fulfilling and rewarding. I will look forward to their future success from the backbenches and will always be there to call upon should they ever wish to seek my counsel.

“I realise to some people this may come as a shock but I have always wanted to leave when people were asking “Why are you going?” rather than “Why haven’t you gone!” I am grateful for and hugely appreciative of the fact that very few people get to serve in a position of Leadership for as long as I have had the honour to do. I have seen leaders of other groups come and go; indeed, I have seen other political parties come and go, all whilst I have remained in situ. I am truly thankful for that longevity and the support of my colleagues who have supported me for all of this time, and I wish them and Harlow the very best of luck for the future.”