HARLOW Council’s leader Jon Clempner stepped down yesterday with immediate effect.
The sudden announcement came as a shock, given the Councillor’s evident passion for Harlow, as well as over-seeing all the regeneration plans to revamp the town amongst many other actions to improve Harlow.
When approached for comment Cllr Clempner said: ‘I am not in a position to make a statement at the moment, but may do so next week.’
A statement from Brian Keane, Harlow Council’s Acting Managing Director, reads: ‘Councillor Jon Clempner has this morning [11 January 2018] informed that he has resigned as both the Leader of Harlow Council and a Councillor with immediate effect. I would like to place on record my thanks to Jon for his service to both his Council and to Harlow while he has been the Leader and a Councillor.
‘Having been informed of this decision, a new Leader of Harlow Council will be appointed at the next scheduled Council meeting on 1 February 2018. The deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Emma Toal, will chair the next meeting of Cabinet on 25 January 2018.
‘A notice of vacancy for Councillor for Little Parndon & Hare Street ward will be published on the Council’s website in due course.’
Cllr Clempner, who is also leader of Harlow Council Labour Group (the only Labour controlled council in Essex), resigned as a cabinet member in 2012 due to what he stated on his website as: ‘Unhappiness at the manner in which the termination of the contract between Harlow Council and Harlow Welfare Rights and Advice was handled’. He remained as a councillor however and was elected Leader of the Labour group and subsequently leader of the council in May 2014. He was then re-elected in May 2016.
When Cllr Clempner spoke to journalism students late last year, it was clear how much enthusiasm he had for Harlow as he voiced how dedicated he was to making a change to the town. He said: ‘Harlow will be completely transformed in the next 10 to 15 years. Developers are putting tens of millions of pounds into the regeneration of the town. Most of the town centre is owned by private companies. This is a turning point in Harlow’s history. In the last two to three decades parts of Harlow have needed more TLC.’
Council Secretary, Frances Mason said: ‘Jon has been a hardworking and passionate member of the Labour Party and has inspired many members into the Labour Party and also to be Councillors to support the community in Harlow.
‘Jon has shown commitment and professionalism in his role representing his constituents, and of course, in his role steering the Council as Leader through the last few years of Conservative austerity.
‘During this time Jon oversaw some fantastic achievements under his leadership, with a shrinking budget, which makes Jon’s successes all the more brilliant and vital for the people of Harlow.
‘Moving forward, the Harlow Council Labour Group will seek to build on the record of Jon’s leadership to deliver the best local services we can provide and look to further develop Harlow into the successful modern town we all want it to be.’
Several MP’s have tweeted their reactions to the news.
Robert Halfon MP tweeted: ‘Whatever my political differences with Jon Clempner former Lab leader @HarlowCouncil, I’ve huge respect for his work and love for Harlow and being so supportive on getting big Government multi million pound projects like @HarlowEz @PHE_uk and new M11 Junction. He’s a great example of the best of this Party.’
Cllr Joel Charles, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group and Shadow Spokesman for Regeneration, tweeted: ‘I wish Jon Clempner the best of luck for the future. His resignation raises serious questions about the future direction of Harlow Council.’
To which Colin Beechey replied: ‘To be honest how long has it been since Harlow Council did care about Harlow residents? “Your child will always have a place in Harlow” not no more, given a lot of our social housing away to London councils, agreeing to 1000’s of houses with a dysfunctional hospital, no police!’
Labour Party activist, Luke Akehurst tweeted: ‘Sorry to hear the news of Jon Clempner’s resignation, it was a pleasure to campaign with him in Harlow in 2013 county elections. A major shift to the left will not be in the best interests of Harlow. Residents want their priorities put first, not momentums.’
Politics and lifestyle writer Charlotte Salomon said: ‘I hear a lot of complaints about the council. Hopefully things will improve for residents.’