Posted: 15.06.20 at 11:42 by Tim Lethaby
Edric Hobbs, who was elected last May as an Independent Mendip district councillor for Shepton West, has joined the Liberal Democrat group at Mendip District Council.
“I am really pleased to be joining the local Liberal Democrat party and the other Lib Dem councillors at Mendip,” said Councillor Hobbs, who is also the newly-elected chair of Shepton Town Council.
“I have supported the change this administration has sought to bring about from the day I was elected – my priorities, my values and what I want to do for Shepton haven’t changed.
"One year in, and with a good understanding of what Mendip can get done, I felt that now is the time to join the Lib Dems, a party that seeks to include others in how they can make Mendip better.”
Councillor Ros Wyke, leader of Mendip District Council, said: “I know that I am speaking on behalf of all the Mendip Lib Dems when I say how pleased we are to welcome Edric to the group.
"Edric was part of a whole new wave of councillors elected last year – an independent thinker and active voice in his community, well known for launching Shepton Mallet Parkrun three years ago, and for all his hard work and commitment to Shepton Town Council.”
Since the local elections last May, Councillor Hobbs has been a Cabinet Assistant, member of the council’s Planning Board and the council’s representative on the Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership Committee.
More recently, Councillor Hobbs, together with Councillor Matt Martin (Moor ward), has kicked-off work to drive forward one of the major projects at Mendip to increase active travel – cycling, walking and running – and reduce traffic and carbon emissions across the district.
“Anyone who knows me will tell you how passionate I am about increasing cycling and multi-user paths across the district, including reinstating as much of the Strawberry Line as possible,” said Councillor Hobbs.
“It’s a big project and one that is only going to work through close partnerships with the county, city, town and parish councils, as well as other interested bodies and organisations.”
This project is part of the council’s Corporate Plan, adopted earlier this year, which is guided by the vision to build a fairer, greener and more vibrant Mendip.
While supporting local businesses and communities through the Covid-19 pandemic as the priority, the council is pushing forward other major projects such as responding to the climate and ecological emergency to reach carbon neutrality by 2030, initiatives to provide affordable and social housing, and the regeneration of market towns.
However, the move by Councillor Hobbs has been criticised by pressure group Somerset Independents.
Leader Andrew Pope said: "Somerset Independents was formed by Somerset residents for Somerset residents, voters and taxpayers.
"We support truly independently-minded councillors, because Westminster parties let local residents down.
"So we had asked all five so-called Independent councillors about their claimed independence. We also asked them what the arrangements were for propping up a minority Liberal Democrat council that does not have the numbers to govern.
"We have asked these councillors again today, in the light of Councillor Hobbs' decision to abandon his independent thinking, as claimed by the Lib Dem leader Councillor Ros Wyke.
"It seems Councillor Hobbs now prefers to let the Liberal Democrat whip take decisions for the people he is supposed to listen and act for - the residents of his Shepton West ward.
"Has he asked them? We hope that he has sought their consent."