A former long-serving councillor has, for the first time in Milton Keynes Council’s history, been rejected for Alderman status in a public vote.
Councillors split along party lines to resoundingly deny former Conservative leader Andy Dransfield the honorary title at a special meeting of Milton Keynes Council on Wednesday.
He had needed 66 per cent of councillors present to vote for him but fell far short of that with only 13 councillors supporting him, and 28 not, which included three abstentions.
Conservative councillors argued that Mr Dransfield had made a few “gaffes” in his career but that should not overshadow his 42 years of public service at parish, county council and borough council levels.
Labour and the Lib Dems took an opposite view, saying that Mr Dransfield’s statements about women and ethic minorities meant he was unfit to be seen as an ambassador of Milton Keynes.
Conservative leader Cllr Alex Walker (Stantonbury) said he had found Mr Dransfield to be a “kind and caring” person, with a great mind, who had served local people at county and borough council levels for more than 30 years.
“He has had decades of sacrifice and wanted to make a real difference,” said Cllr Walker with a plea for the council to come together. “His huge sacrifices deserve a small recognition.”
But Cllr Hannah O’Neill (Woughton & Fishermead), the Labour group’s deputy leader, said: “This is not about politics but it is about standards and behaviour. It is with great sadness that we cannot support this.”
She said the title of Alderman was for life and the Labour group did not see Mr Dransfield befitting the honour because he has on several occasions made statements about women and minorities.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Douglas McCall (Newport Pagnell South) said: “This is nothing to do with Mr Dransfield’s political views or whether we like him or not. It’s about long service and good conduct.
“The question is does he have the good conduct to represent us. He has insulted members of the public in this Chamber and made comments about how female members of the public have been dressed. His comments about a female police officer were a standards case.”
But Cllr Peter Geary (Cons, Olney) said voting against Mr Dransfield would mean the council would reach a “new low”.
“Andy Dransfield never lost an election when defending a seat.” And he added that Mr Dransfield had stood up for his electorate and been a great advocate for them.
“This vote will be taken out of spite, jealousy and revenge,” he added. “It is a sad, sad day.”
Councillors voted not to confer the honour of Alderman on Mr Dransfield, who stood down from the council at the local elections in May, by 25 votes to 13 with three abstentions.
A disappointed Mr Dransfield, who was in the council chamber to see the vote, said: “I am not surprised given the state of politics today. It is petty and vindictive and shows that some people cannot rise above party politics.”