Parish and borough councillor insists she won't quit despite no confidence verdict in local poll

A councillor who was subject to a parish poll in which residents said they had no confidence in her says she won’t quit.

Councillor Vera Rider has relinquished her role as chairwoman of Saltburn, Marske and New Marske Parish Council after her 12 month term came to an end following an annual general meeting. However she remains on the parish council and as a serving borough councillor, representing the Longbeck ward in Redcar and Cleveland for the Conservatives.

Cllr Rider has proved a divisive figure with some local residents who were angered over her role in a decision by the parish council to cut down a sycamore tree described as dangerously overhanging, which sparked protests and a police presence. She also oversaw a chaotic parish council meeting, footage of which was posted online, which saw her branded a “tinpot dictator” and subject to chants of “out, out, out”.

Liberal Democrat councillor Dr Tristan Learoyd, who represents the neighbouring St Germain’s ward on the higher authority, and Cllr Rider’s fellow parish councillor Peter Finlinson have called on her to resign both positions.

Cllr Learoyd said she no longer had a mandate to continue to represent residents and pointed out that the number of votes in the poll was only about 70 short of what she gained when re-elected last year onto the borough council. He said her position was “untenable” and described other concerns about Cllr Rider’s conduct.

Councillor Tristan Learoyd
Councillor Tristan Learoyd -Credit:Andrea Learoyd

But another Conservative member, Councillor Jack Symon, who represents Wheatlands ward on the borough council, said she had been subject to an orchestrated campaign “pitting the public against her through manipulation and misinformation”. He said the parish poll had cost £4,000 and Cllr Rider’s “dedication and integrity deserve recognition and respect, rather than the unjust attacks she has endured”.

‘Sick to death of it’

Cllr Rider, who previously quit the Conservatives to sit as an independent in Longbeck before returning to the party in November last year, said Cllr Learoyd was “in bed” with Cllr Finlinson when contacted by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

She said: “I am sick to death of it to tell you the truth. I am not standing down because he [Cllr Finlinson] says so.”

Cllr Rider said the annual general meeting this week of the parish council saw “people shouting at the top of their voices” and she was called a “stupid b***h”. She said: “It was absolutely appalling - it is the third or fourth time this has happened at parish council meetings - and it has all been orchestrated by Peter Finlinson.

“Parish councillors are a dignified bunch and we do our little thing - me and my husband have just got back from planting tubs in New Marske.”

Cllr Finlinson said: “People went to the trouble of coming out to vote [in the parish poll]. If you don’t take notice of what they said then you don’t put any value in the democratic process.

“She [Cllr Rider] is a councillor and is supposed to respect that process. She is a malign influence on the council and has been for a number of years.

“The wishes of the public are very plain, she has been told to her face on three occasions she has to go. If she has any honour or decency she should take notice of what people are saying, but unfortunately she won’t do that.

“She believes that she is untouchable and does what she wants, and can’t be controlled.”

Cllr Finlinson said that while the parish poll result was not binding, he believed it should have meant Cllr Rider be disqualified from standing other positions on the parish council and said he tried to raise a point of order to this effect at the AGM.

The poll, the results of which were revealed earlier this week, resulted in 324 people agreeing that they had no confidence in Cllr Rider with 76 disagreeing.

Cllr Rider previously attracted the wrath of former Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Steve Turner who said he was “aghast” at the Conservative decision to readmit her to the local group and it was “appalling and spectacularly naive”. He and his wife Andrea previously tried and failed to win election to the Longbeck ward.

At the time the Conservative group leader on Redcar and Cleveland Council, Councillor Paul Salvin said she brought a wealth of experience and would make sure residents’ voices were heard.