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'We're here to serve people, not score political points,' says Alex Collingwood as he reflects on his first year as Leader of Wycombe District Council
A YEAR ago Alex Collingwood took up the reins at Wycombe District Council, taking over as leader from Conservative colleague Lesley Clarke, who stood down.
The BFP sat down with Cllr Collingwood to reflect on the past 12 months.
THE saga of the community stadium seems a long way away now but last May as elections took place, it was still the hot topic.
Could the smaller parties or even independents oust the ruling Tory majority and change course on the Wycombe Air Park plans?
The answer, resoundingly, was no. Yet, there was a significant shift in power within the Conservative ranks. Lesley Clarke quit and rising star Alex Collingwood, who had won praise for a deep and thorough study on the stadium proposal, was voted in by his party.
Soon after the stadium was dead in the water. Later came a huge change in the district when 6,700 council homes were sold to new housing association Red Kite. There has also been a major new sports plan put forward for Handy Cross as well as a raft of measures for economic regeneration.
Cllr Collingwood said: “It's been a great and enjoyable year and it's gone really quickly.
“The fact it's been such a big year of delivery has probably been the biggest challenge.
“As soon as we finish one, we move onto the next and we're juggling multiple projects at the same time.”
He explained the biggest surprise is simply how smoothly things have gone, especially considering what he described as the 'grief' his predecessor experienced with the stadium.
There have been whispers in the corridors of power at WDC of splits within the Conservatives, with the old guard not happy with some of the policies of the fresh crop.
Speculation of a leadership challenge was laughed off months ago and he reiterated there was no truth in the rumours of disagreements.
In fact, everyone is moving forward with a united purpose, he said.
“We know we won't agree on everything all the time, but under my leadership, hopefully, the vast majority will agree on most of the things most of the time.”
The public have seen a number of heated clashes between the Tories and opposition parties at full council, with one of Cllr Collingwood's own Cabinet members saying it had become a pantomime.
His view is clear.
“You should be there to serve people and their issues, not try to score political points,” he said.
“There'll always be people there for their own egos, as it were. But certainly me and my team are about making Wycombe a better place.
“I think the vast majority of councillors are on the same page as that but there are one or two who for whatever reason try to be a bit clever.”
As for the next year? It's all about revitalising Wycombe as a place to attract investors.