2015 - TIME TO MOVE FORWARD

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Last May I decided to stand down as the district leader. It was a tough decision but after two and a half years of successfully holding together a minority administration in the most difficult of circumstances, I finally decided enough was enough – for me.

The moment I made that decision I also informed my group colleagues at TDC that I would not be seeking re-selection as a Labour candidate in 2015 (three months later I made that statement public). The fact is, two and half years of needless party political wrangling, often for no positive reason whatsoever, had shown me the virtual futility of party politics at a local level.

Please don’t misunderstand me. Being leader was an honour and a privilege and my resignation letter pointed to a list of two and a half years of very positive successes. Unfortunately, the inertia created by petty political infighting over the same period was, to say the least, draining.

As one of the councillors for the most challenging ward in the south-east I’d been used to running, often – or so it felt - to stand still, for over a decade. However, at ward level it has all proved totally worthwhile to see Cliftonville starting to turn a corner at long last.

For example: the main issue back in 2004 was the designation of a huge dispersal area to fight crime and anti-social behaviour. By 2014, having put in place a whole raft of measures to deal with these and many difficult housing issues, the main topic was the designation of a series of Conservation Areas. Progress indeed!

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However, after more than a decade as a coucillor, at district and county level, including several years in the shadow and full TDC cabinets, as leader of the opposition and eventually the council leader, it was time for a short break , though I’ve maintained my less onorous, non-political planning and ward councillor roles and duties.

Having stood down as leader last May, I figured that a three-month break, dedicated mostly to my garden, would ‘do the job’ and re-charge my batteries. Then an Indian summer delightfully doubled the time available outdoors and in the end it was November before my ‘semi sabbatical’ was over.

The sad death of my dear brother Dennis at the end of November brought this period of change for me to an emotional peak. Christmas and new-year were very difficult, but Den’s funeral, delayed until last week, was however, a wonderful celebration of his life and release from the years of suffering.

So here we are, a new-year just begun and time to move forward. Core values remain as always and I’ll see out my term in Cliftonville West, but the sabbatical worked and it’s a wiser, more refreshed and a far less politically motivated man looking forward to a very positive 2015.

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Clive Hart