By Richard Hook
As the country awaits the results of what the New Statesman called, “the most important vote in a generation”, the future of six Brighton and Hove councillors is already decided.
Pat Drake, Averil Older, Rachel Fryer, Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett, Paul Steedman and Georgia Wrighton have stepped down from Brighton and Hove City Council.
All six – four of them Greens and two Conservatives – have made their own mark on their wards and the city as a whole.
Long-serving Withdean councillor Pat Drake, 75, used her background as an accountant well as she oversaw council finances and public sector pensions in Brighton and Hove and East Sussex.
She also proudly spent a year as Mayor of Brighton and Hove.
The current Mayor, Geoff Wells, held a special reception for her in the Mayor’s Parlour at the end of March.
The chance to serve
At the event Councillor Drake said: “I’m very pleased and proud to have had the chance to serve the people of Brighton, Hove and Portslade for the past 40 years.”
Having grown up in Moulsecoomb, Councillor Drake first became involved in local government as a member of Brighton Education Committee in 1971.
She went on to serve on Brighton Borough Council, East Sussex County Council and Brighton and Hove City Council throughout a remarkable career.
Her husband, fellow Conservative councillor John Drake, did not get to see her serve as mayor, having died two years earlier.
She officially announced her retirement at the council’s raucous budget meeting in March.
Amid the party political rancour, she received warm tributes and cross-party applause with Councillor Wells thanking her for her “outstanding contribution to the council and to Brighton and Hove”.
Another Conservative stepping down is Central Hove councillor, Averil Older.
Councillor Older, 65, had hoped that her daughter, Jo Heard, would succeed her as a Conservative councillor, but she wasn’t selected in her preferred ward of Hangleton and Knoll and is now running as an independent.
Councillor Older said that she would now focus on supporting her daughter’s political career.
One tribute came from the left-wing Brighton Politics Blog which said: “Unlike some councillors, she has remained a very normal human being, someone who is easy to talk to and to get along with.”
The four Green Party councillors stepping down – Rachel Fryer, Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett, Paul Steedman and Georgia Wrighton – are not doing so to retire but to spend more time focusing on their careers.
Councillor Fryer is a talented musician and was described by Royal Academy of the Arts member Paul Hamberger as “deeply musical”.
Having successfully promoted the cause of young people as the Green Party’s education spokesman, she hopes to further promote her piano career alongside her teaching work at the East Sussex Academy of Music.
Councillor Wakefield-Jarrett plans to continue her campaigns for environmental justice after completing her masters degree in climate change and policy at Sussex University.
She said: “It’s been great to represent the Greens over the past four years as the party’s gone from strength to strength.
“I’m still going to be involved and am optimistic of a good result [in the local elections], and hopefully we’ll see the first Green council after tonight (Thursday 5 May).”
Fellow Hanover and Elm Grove member Councillor Wrighton is to focus on her job as a town planner for Women’s Design Services.
She pioneered “binvelopes” – foldable boxes designed to stop litter spilling out – and helped bring new cycle lanes to Hanover during her eight years as a councillor.
Councillor Steedman will continue to work with the Greens in his role as director of the general election campaign.
Having helped mastermind Caroline Lucas’s election as Britain’s first Green MP, he said: “My main priority now is to help Caroline work with others in Parliament to put forward those green policies we’ve campaigned on.”
They all regret having to step away from their posts, and hope to return at some point in the future.
Councillor Steedman said: “It’s been a brilliant time to be working with a growing political force and it’s a fantastic challenge to continue to promote the Green Party’s cause in the future, including in these local council elections.”
*Richard Hook also writes for Brighton Lite
LIKE WHAT WE DO? HELP US TO DO MORE OF IT BY DONATING HERE.