09:34AM, Thursday 19 September 2019
Political figures in the Royal Borough have spoken about Simon Dudley’s three-year leadership.
The former Riverside councillor posted his sudden resignation online last Thursday, but has since refused to speak to the Advertiser about his departure.
Mr Dudley said he wanted to focus on ‘national issues’ but his Tory colleagues seemed unaware his resignation was coming.
When asked to elaborate on his reasons for leaving, Mr Dudley told the Advertiser yesterday (Wednesday): “I released a letter and that is my statement.
Interim leader Cllr David Coppinger (Con, Bray) praised him for moving the borough forward during his tenure while opposition figures attacked his leadership style.
Cllr Coppinger, who is aiming to replace the former Riverside councillor as leader, said: “I am very sorry that Simon has decided to move on in his career.
“He has moved the borough forward a long way.”
Cllr Ross McWilliams, who was sacked from Mr Dudley’s cabinet, said he ‘undoubtedly played a key role in driving forward Maidenhead’s regeneration, which has set our town up for an exciting future’ despite disagreeing ‘sometimes very publicly’.
But the Liberal Democrats said when Mr Dudley made the news ‘it was often for controversial reasons’ and cited comments he made about homeless people in Windsor and ‘his penchant for blocking residents’ who criticised him on social media.
They called on Cllr Coppinger, the interim leader, and ‘whoever succeeds’ Mr Dudley to ‘call a halt to the disastrous Borough Local Plan’, ‘offer visionary leadership’ and ‘abandon the party whip, which has no place in local politics’.
Meanwhile, Cllr Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield), the ex-chairman of the Maidenhead Conservative Association who served in Mr Dudley’s cabinet before defecting from the Tories, called his time as leader a ‘disappointment’.
Cllr Hill left the Tory group in the wake of Mr Dudley’s comments about dealing with ‘aggressive begging’ in Windsor ahead of the Royal Wedding last year, about six months after he was sacked from the cabinet. He has been a strong critic of Mr Dudley.
“For me, I felt (his tenure) was a disappointment.
“I was one of the people who supported him to become leader and for me it is one of my biggest disappointments, the way Mr Dudley ran the borough.”
Asked what Mr Dudley’s legacy would be, Cllr Hill said: “That is very, very difficult to say.
“I can’t see Mr Dudley’s legacy being particularly complimentary. I think he is going to struggle with a legacy having not been in post long enough to really deliver anything.”
But he added that Mr Dudley has ‘a huge amount of drive and energy’.
“I just don’t think it was quite right for him.”
He added that he would welcome Cllr Coppinger taking over but stressed he had no plans to return to his old party.
Cllr Lynne Jones (Ind, Old Windsor), the leader of the Local Independents group, said: “Simon Dudley always saw himself as a ‘deal maker’, his legacy to RBWM is yet to be determined as much has been started but not completed.
“We have always been in conflict over financial policy, the lack of transparency in financial processes, medium to long-term budget management and whether ‘the end justifies the means’.
“With a change of the council’s political leader I am hoping for more collegiate and less political decision making.
“I wish Simon and his family well for the future.”
Both she and Cllr Hill criticised the suddenness of the departure, which they said has led to a lack of a handover.
Top Ten Articles
We are making the weekly online edition of the Maidenhead Advertiser free to read on our website so people who are self-isolating or otherwise unable to pick up a copy can continue to access our coverage.