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A&T interview – Barry Rickman on why he resigned as leader of the NFDC

Cllr Barry Rickman has stepped down as leader of the NFDC
Cllr Barry Rickman has stepped down as leader of the NFDC

THE departing leader of New Forest District Council has revealed he stood down after the “pressure brought in some quarters” intensified.

On 12th March he pleaded guilty at a hearing at Southampton Magistrates’ Court to flouting environmental regulations

Cllr Barry Rickman, a Conservative, had initially stated he wanted to carry on but it was confirmed by NFDC today (Monday) he had changed tack and was bringing the curtain down on his 12-year stint as leader.

Asked the reason for his change of heart by the A&T, Cllr Rickman was reluctant to go into detail, insisting his departure had nothing to do with the Liberal Democrat opposition, who had called for his resignation. A&T sources suggested Tory infighting and briefing over the weekend contributed to the situation.

Pressed, Cllr Rickman would only say: “The pressure that has been brought in some quarters [has proved too much]. This has got nothing to do with Cllr Jack Davies [or the opposition Liberal Democrats].

“I know Cllr Davies posted on his Facebook page about me and got five responses: four supported me and one him – so rather than him hitting the back of the net, it was a bit of an own goal.”

Emotional that his time as leader was ending, Cllr Rickman praised his NFDC deputy, Cllr Edward Heron, adding: “I couldn’t have wished for someone who has been more supportive.

“I also must thank my fellow cabinet members; we all did so much work together and for the New Forest, and they all became great mates.”

Cllr Rickman intends to remain NFDC councillor for Boldre and Sway, and in his other roles, which include as a member of the national park authority and the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.

He pledged to support the next NFDC leader but declined to say who he thought it should be, adding: “Whoever they are I wish them all the best.”

Cllr Rickman continued: “I have received amazing support from the public and it really makes me quite emotional, and I have done this [resigned] with a very sad heart. Being leader was something I enjoyed doing as well as trying to make a difference. It has been my life.”

He added: “A lot of people – some councillors included – do not realise the sheer time, work and effort that goes into being a member of the cabinet.

“I have to say the pressure of the past 12 months [during the time of coronavirus] has been enormous in a lot of ways that the public do not even know. In my time as leader I’ve had the pleasure of being able to do quite a lot of nice things,” he added.

“I’ll miss the availability of trying to make a difference and people’s lives better. We’ve done well by the New Forest; we’ve kept the council tax down, we’ve done our best by the business community and we’ve kept the economy going.”

Cllr Rickman has left the role in the wake of him pleading guilty to criminal charges over the Rickman’s breakers yard he co-owns with his older brother, Robert. It is understood Cllr Rickman does not have any involvement in the day-to-day running of the business.

Aged 63 and of Heron Close, Sway, Cllr Rickman admitted a charge that he knowingly caused/permitted a person to operate a regulated waste operation facility that dealt with the deposit, treatment and or storage of waste, without authorisation of an environmental permit, this afternoon (Friday).

His brother Robert (67), who gave his address as Rickman’s Scrapyard, Mead End Road, admitted a single matter of conducting/causing or knowingly permitting activity in contravention of an environmental permit in relation to the waste operation.

The charges for both men relate to a period between 17th November 2017 and 9th October 2020 at the Lower Mead End Road site in Sway. The prosecution was led by the Environment Agency.

The Liberal Democrat opposition group had called on Cllr Rickman to stand down and threatened placing a no-confidence motion against him at the next NFDC meeting on 12th April.

Lib Dem leader Cllr David Harrison said: “I think that Cllr Barry Rickman eventually did the right thing by resigning. Failure to do so would have undermined the credibility of New Forest District Council itself. It’s a rather sad ending to what was a long career at the top.

“I am just pleased that we didn’t have to present our motion of no-confidence to the full council. He clearly saw the writing on the wall and understood that his position had become untenable.”

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