Have Your Say – Mayor Making Mayhem

Dear Editor,

I am writing to express my complete dismay at the Mayor Making mayhem on Monday 8th May, at the town hall.

As a citizen of Henley currently not a member of any political party, I simply want what is best for our lovely town.

Mayor Making is I believe a ceremonial gathering, to formalise a prior vote. A vote all our councillors are privileged to be given to decide the Mayor Elect for the year ahead.  This was executed on March 28th and was ratified at the last full council meeting on May 3rd.  It is also worth noting that all Conservative councillors had when personally asked, agreed to support the Mayor Elect as the local elections approached. Councillor Sam Evans referred to this in her nomination, as reported by the Henley Herald.  “We all now have a choice. Are you going to stick with the power of your convictions and vote, for Will as Mayor, as you promised, for the good of Henley? Or are you going to vote for personal and political gain, and forfeit the good of Henley?”

I received an invitation to attend the ceremony and expected a celebration of Will Hamilton ex-Deputy Mayor and current Mayor Elect, to be announced as the new Mayor.

I understand that after the local elections the HRG gained strength resulting in 50/50 split of control.  This could have been a great opportunity for the two parties to really put the town first and work in collaboration.  I also understand the Conservatives, via the presiding Mayor had the deciding vote, if needed.   Based on those facts, together with the verbal personal commitment from all Conservative councillors to support Will Hamilton, as Mayor Elect – he should have been officially announced as Mayor.

In my naivety I was wrong.  It appears that a specific councillor reneged on her promise of support just days before the ceremony and made the decision to abstain from the ceremonial vote, fully understanding the implications this would cause.

Why would anyone do that? Why would anyone want to push the two opposing political parties that make up our council, further apart? Well in my eyes for no reason other than self gain or due to some sort of manipulation by others.  Either way this move has left me pretty faithless in the majority of our councillors. Specifically those of the HRG and the alleged new Independent Conservative councillor.    If our councillors can’t deliver a promise they made amongst themselves how can we, citizens of Henley on Thames trust them to deliver their promises to us.  They are here to serve the community not themselves.

The councillor that changed her mind to scupper the original outcome and then reneged on her promise to support the Mayor Elect, was subsequently made Deputy Mayor and allegedly given a promise of being Mayor next year… let’s hope for her sake that her councillor colleagues have better scruples than her, and ultimately keep their word.

Is this a case of a power crazed individual acting to self serve, is it a case of manipulation of an individual with puppeteers pulling the strings?  Whatever it is, for the good of Henley on Thames from now on said councillor ‘do the right thing’ for both the community and your own self worth.

The town can and will move on from this.  This will be a good year for Henley on Thames because most citizens act with good intent and are true to their word.    I look forward to seeing Mayor Kellie Hinton succeed and wish her all the best for the sake of our town. I praise Mayor Elect Will Hamilton for his integrity, professionalism and continued commitment to this town, despite the way he has been treated. Sadly I have no words for Lorraine Hillier.

Citizen of Henley on Thames


  1. Henry says:

    I was there too – and I have to say I agree with L.Lee. It was unkind, unnecessary and generally left a nasty taste. Shame on tactical voting, and self promotion.

  2. Dick Fletcher says:

    Alas, L Lee’s eloquence cannot cloak the truth. The reality of what happened can be found in the official minutes and papers of HTC. L Lee’s account is based largely on hearsay and a misunderstanding of the democratic process.

  3. David Dickie says:

    Lorraine Hillier has been an excellent councillor and Mayor over the past few years because she too cares about Henley.
    The way mayor making happens just after elections will result in these situations and this has unfortunately happened at least twice in the past. That is politics. Lorraine I believe remains very disappointed by the Townlands empty floor, the cuts to our bus service,the lack of action on air quality, cuts to police funding, the pot holes, retirement homes on JHHNP sites, cuts to school budgets, and maybe a hard Brexit etc so she has become an Independent as a result. If the Conservatives had not presented us with these austere measures a different outcome might have emerged.

  4. Lorraine Hillier says:

    Sadly L. Lee has been misinformed. The election changed the result. We tried to stop a Mayor elect and Deputy Mayor elect being put forward so close to the election. The actual nominations were to take place at Mayor-making. Cllr Evans speech was incorrect – there were no promises made nor political gain. Nor was I promised Mayor next year. We want a Council which works together this recently had not been the case. Power crazed? This is a parish council for goodness sake. I had many conversations with Will prior to Monday and he knew my decision – it was not a surprise to him and it was not an easy decision. It shouldn’t be a personal agenda – it is about what is best for the residents of the town. You may choose to blacken my name whilst ill-informed but those who know me know the truth. If you wish to discuss it to my face I am happy to meet with you. Cllr. Hinton will and already is proving to be a good choice for Mayor. I am there to support her.

    • Lisa says:

      Thank you Lorraine Hillier. Yes I will take you up on your offer. I am keen to understand the facts, which are right now vague, confusing and not healthy for a small town. I am supportive of the new Mayor Kellie Hinton. My letter was in no way in reference to her and is simply my personal view and perception of what appeared to be happening on Monday.
      I was actually your neighbour for two years. You lived yards away from me on River Terrace until you moved. We have never formally met or even spoken. I find that unusual, so would relish the opportunity to meet you and hear your version of the facts that led to Monday’s situation. I’m also keen to know what you are planning to do to heal this public rift and positively convince more locals that you have been and will continue to make choices for the good of the town and not yourself. Please reach out to me via Facebook private messenger where I can supply you with a contact number to arrange a 1:1 meeting. Thanks again for your offer. L.Lee

  5. Chris Williams says:

    Clearly politically possible. No doubt HRG will refer to the swing in the election as reason why they should have control. And yet it smacks of political gameplay rather than the wellbeing of our town. I feel ashamed about it too.

    • Ian Reissmann says:

      Our only intention was to elect the best person to be Mayor. That was what I did, and that’s what others did. I think Kellie will be an outstanding Mayor.

      Yes – those of us in HRG do feel the election result was a clear expression of the will of residents. Some people are trying to portray the Mayoral vote as political gameplay. I think this is untrue and unfair.

  6. Ian Reissmann says:

    What happened on Monday was very simple. 16 Cllrs elected Kellie as Mayor using a democratic and transparent process. I voted for the person I thought was the best Mayor for Henley. I was elected to do my best for Henley, and that’s what I did, as did all the cllrs. Would you expect us to deliberately vote for a second best candidate ? I don’t think that’s why residents elected us.

    At the election HRG won a very clear victory and we received a clear mandate from residents who placed their trust in us. Henley residents want HRG to run Henley Town Council and make sure decisions about Henley are taken by Independent cllrs answering to all the residents.

    The people have spoken, and while you may feel you don’t agree with the majority, we can only elect one Mayor. When it comes to the key issues for Henley, we will work with all cllrs and listen to all residents in doing our best for the Town and all its residents.

    We were elected to tackle Henley’s transport issues, improve air quality, increase the availability of affordable housing plus others. That’s where we should debating what we want for the Town in the future.

    We look forward to hearing your views on these and other issues which affect Henley’s residents.

  7. Stefan gawrysiak says:

    Dear Editor

    May I respond to the comments from L.Lee and correct some of her comments.
    The Annual town meeting (Mayor Making) is not just a ceremonial event; it is the only meeting where Mayor and Deputy Mayor are elected.
    On the 28th March the Henley Town Council at Full Council held a debate about Mayor Elect and Deputy Mayor Elect. The link to the minutes is here.
    It was stated at that meeting by many councillors that due to the fact that two by-elections were taking place that this vote should be deferred. The Conservatives decided to press ahead and a vote was taken. The conservatives were prejudging the result of democratic elections.
    I and others stated very clearly at this meeting that the Mayor-elect vote should not go ahead because of the uncertainty of the by-elections. HRG and the Conservatives did not know how the people of Henley would vote They very unwisely pressed ahead. L.Lee is also incorrect that councillors reneged on promises.
    On May 4th the residents of Henley voted and elected 3 HRG councillors by overwhelming majorities. Because of this overwhelming endorsement by the residents of Henley Mayor Kellie Hinton was elected. That is democracy.
    Kellie has been a fantastic Councillor and servant to the Town; with others she has brought the Skatepark to Henley, The May Fayre back into the Town, Won prestige for Henley in bringing many Bloom awards to Henley on Thames. L. Lee and I agree that she will be brilliant and hard working councillor and will be a great Ambassador for our Town.

    Yours Stefan HRG Councillor

  8. Lorraine Hillier says:

    Dear Lisa,
    I am not on Facebook and do not use it but my details are on the Town Council website so if you could phone or text me to arrange when is best for you to meet up?
    Thank you,

    • Lisa Lee says:

      Hi Lorraine, thank you I will get the details off the site and contact you with a couple of suggested dates to meet.
      It would probably be a positive move for all HTC councillors to embrace Facebook and other social media platforms, to help them reach out to residents. It is a very swift and effective communication channel which could be one of the solutions to keeping people informed around the facts, rather than misinformation by ad-hoc supporters randomly posting.
      I will be in touch and look forward to meeting you.

      Lisa Lee

  9. David Johnston says:

    From memory, the Mayor elect used to be selected by a committee of Commitee chairmen and the sitting Mayor. I.e. Those councillors with some experience in Town Council matters. This resulted in three Town Mayors in the last thirty years being chosen despite their minority elected political party. Councillors used to have some sense of pride in serving the Town rather than some amorphous political group. The HRG initially rejected any accusation of political party affiliation until I proposed to describe myself, electorally, as a “Conservative Henley Resident”. This may have resulted in the rush by HRG to register as a political party! It might be interesting ( though illegal) to discover how HRG members vote in a General election. Incidentally,my non-victory in later campaigns, is in no way reflected in these comments. I would however recommend that the Mayor in office should automatically be selected as Deputy Mayor. Who has more recent relevant knowledge of the thinkings of the of the Town? As Deputy I had to (and have had to in the last thirty odd years) to represent the Mayor only once.

  10. Sara Abey says:

    In contrast to Dick Fletcher, I think that L Lee has understood the situation and the democratic process in Henley embarrassingly well. She is spot on when she says that after the recent by-election when HRG gained strength resulting in 50/50 split of control, it could have been a marvellous opportunity for the two parties to really put the town first and work in collaboration. This is something the Henley Conservatives tried to engineer while they held the majority, for example by appointing HRG Councillors as Chairs of four committees.
    We’d probably all like to forget the rather clumsy Mayor making, but Cllr Stefan Gawrysiak must have had a lapse of memory when he said that “many councillors” wanted to defer the mayor-elect vote. By an extraordinary bit of bad luck, half of the HRG councillors were unable to attend the relevant meeting due to illness.
    I think most in the town consider that the political polarisation we’ve seen in Henley is just plain silly in what is in effect a Parish Council. The theoretical HRG founding principle as a collegiate group of apolitical, independent Henley-lovers would be good if it were still true – that’s why I stood and was elected as an HRG Councillor in 2015. The reality that soon became evident to me was that they are now very political and heaven help any that question their policies. That’s why I left them in 2016 – and the vitriol and personal attacks that followed (and were stirred up again just before the recent election) are proof that my feelings about them were right.
    As L. Lee says, the near-balance we now have between Henley Conservatives and HRG in the Council should allow us to work together effectively for the real benefit of Henley. Actual policy differences are minimal – I’ve been on both sides, so I know! – and all that really stands in the way of the good stewardship of Henley are problems of personality and individual ambitions. I hope sense, wisdom and maturity will prevail.

  11. Ian Reissmann says:

    HRG always work with anyone who wishes to work for Henley. HRG candidates received overwhelming support from the electorate on May 8th and as a result regained control of the Town Council. The 16 cllrs (new and old) then voted for Cllr Hinton as the obvious choice and has already amply demonstrated her total suitability for the role of Mayor.

    It was unfortunate that the Town Council had previously decided to appoint a “Mayor-Elect”. On March 28th the record shows I proposed that we follow Standing Orders which state that “in an election year, no appointment to Mayor Elect is made”. When the Conservatives chose to ignore this advice and propose Cllr Hamilton, all HRG cllrs abstained noting that the vote was meaningless and unwise. (2 were absent due to illness).

    When it comes to election of committee members, Sara Abey’s memory is equally faulty. In 2015 all Standing Committees, sub committees and Working groups were chaired by Conservatives. Despite all her energy and record of success, Kellie Hinton was replaced as Henley in Bloom chair by Simon Smith. Despite leading the long and successful campaign to redevelop the new Townlands hospital, Ian Reissmann was removed as Townlands Steering Group Chair. These had to be reversed when it was obvious the wrong decision had been made. (Jane Smewing was elected chair of the Value for Money group, but this was because Sara Abey was late for the meeting, and unable to vote for herself !)

    The idea that HRG cllrs are not allowed to speak and vote in different ways is extraordinary. Every council meeting sees HRG doing exactly this – we represent all views in the town, and vote according to what we think is right for Henley and what residents want.

    If Sara Abey truly believed in cllrs acting independently, it was a strange choice to join the Conservative group, who are not independent, but have to tow the line of their elders and betters at SODC, Oxon CC and Westminster.

  12. Sara Abey says:

    I really didn’t want to enter into an argument online, but I have to comment on Ian’s assertion that HRG Cllrs are free to speak and vote as their conscience dictates. He didn’t make a retort to my comment about the vitriol aimed at me when I left HRG and more recently, but I have the emails and looking back on those I can give a couple of brief extracts which neatly support my feelings about HRG having to tow the party line. First, a major reason given for the six senior members of HRG leaving in 2014 was that they were “going against HRG policies”. And surely the comment by a prominent HRG Cllr that “I’d absolutely hate to have to humiliate anybody by bringing our election material into a council meeting and turning on my own party publicly” implies a party line? Humiliate? Wow…

    It is nonsense to suggest that SODC, Oxon CC and Westminster Conservatives are my puppet masters. I pride myself on my independent views – which brings us in a full circle back to why I left HRG.


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