By Rich Hook
There will be lots of choices for voters in Brighton & Hove today [May 5] with the AV vote and city council elections, but the names of Pat Drake, Averil Older, Rachel Fryer, Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett, Paul Steedman and Georgia Wrighton won’t be amongst them.
All six councillors – two Conservatives and four Greens each made a major impact on their constituencies and Brighton & Hove City Council.
Withdean Councillor Pat Drake is most remembered for her time as Mayor and current Mayor Geoff Wells held a special reception for her at his Mayoral Parlour at the end of March.
At the event, Drake said:
“I’m very pleased and proud to have had the chance to serve the people of Brighton, Hove and Portslade for the past fourty years.”
Having grown up in Moulsecoomb, Pat first became involved in local government when she became a member of Brighton Education Committee in 1971.
She went on to represent Brighton Borough, East Sussex County Council and Brighton & Hove City Council throughout a remarkable career.
Her husband, fellow Conservative Councillor John Drake, did not get to see her serve as Mayor having died two years earlier, but after finishing her term she said:
“I know it is what he would have wanted, and I got to promote some wonderful causes [including Rockinghorse, Martlets & Sussex Lantern] during my time.”
She officially announced her retirement at the council’s raucous budget meeting in March.
Amid the party political rancour, she received warm tributes and cross-party applause with Mayor Wells thanking her for her “outstanding contribution to the council and to Brighton and Hove”.
Another Conservative stepping down is Central Hove Councillor, Averil Older. She had hoped her daughter, Jo Heard, would succeed her as a Conservative Councillor, but she wasn’t selected in her prefered ward of Hangleton & Knoll and is now running as an independent. Averil said she will now focus on supporting her daughter’s political career.
The four Green Party Councillors stepping down, Rachel Fryer, Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett, Paul Steedman and Georgia Wrighton, are not doing so to retire, but to spend more time focusing on their careers.
Rachel is a talented musician, and was described by Royal Academy of the Arts member Paul Hamberger as “deeply musical”. Having successfully promoted the cause of young people as the Green Party’s Education Spokesperson, she hopes to further promote her piano career alongside her teaching work at the East Sussex Academy of Music .
Vicky plans to continue her campaigns for environmental justice after completing her Masters Degree in Climate Change & Policy at Sussex University. She said:
“It’s been great to represent the Green’s over the past four years as the party’s gone from strength to strength.
“I’m still going to be involved; and am optimistic of a good result [in local elections], and hopefully we’ll see the first Green Council after tonight [May 5].”
Fellow Hanover & Elm Grove Councillor, Georgia, is set to focus on her job as a town planner for Women’s Design Services, having pioneered ‘binvelopes’ [foldable boxes which stop litter spilling out] and created new cycle lanes in Hanover during her eight years as a local councillor.
Paul will continue to work with the Green’s, in his role as Director of the General Election campaign. Having helped mastermind Caroline Lucas’ success in becoming the first-ever Green MP, Paul said: “My main priority now is to help Caroline work with others in Parliament to put forward those green policies we’ve campaigned on.”
They all regret having to step away from their posts, and hope to return at some point in the future, Paul said:
“It’s been a brilliant time to be working with a growing political force and it’s a fantastic challenge to continue to promote the Green Party’s cause in the future, including in these local council elections.”