Councillor rapped for standing down

York Press: Anna Semlyen Anna Semlyen

CONSERVATIVES have criticised a Labour councillor and 20mph campaigner who they say is letting her constituents down by standing down after just one term.

They have spoken out after the announcement that Dringhouses and Woodthorpe councillor Anna Semlyen would not stand for re-election in May.

Councillor Semylen works as a national campaign manager for the 20’s Plenty For Us organisation, and has been an outspoken advocate for the introduction of 20mph zones across York.

Councillor Semylen announced her intention not to stand last week, saying her decision was to do with a “work-life balance” and her job teaching yoga in the evenings.

The Conservative group leader on the council, Councillor Chris Steward, has criticised her decision, saying it suggests Cllr Semlyen stood for council only to fight for 20mph limits and is leaving as soon as the policy has been introduced.

“Councillor Semlyen has always said she is paid by 20’s Plenty for everything except her work in York, but I don’t accept you can be paid to campaign for six million people, less the 200,000 in York.

“I am not saying Cllr Semlyen has not done other things as a councillor, but she has been very much focused on 20mph and has stood down after one very brief term.

“I think the people of Dringhouses and Woodthorpe deserve better.”

The Labour group has defended Cllr Semlyen’s decision, saying councillors step down from many reasons, and pointed out that by introducing 20mph limits they are simply delivering on their election promises.

Councillor Steward has also criticised recent developments in the policy, and renewed his party’s calls for the 20mph limits to be targeted to specific areas like roads outside schools, where in the Conservatives’ view they can make a difference, rather than being introduced so widely they simply breed contempt for speed limits.

He said: “The Labour group has always said 20mph was a manifesto commitment, but now we have learnt the speed limits won’t be rolled out as extensively outside the ring road, but inside the ring road it will be a blanket scheme.

David Levene said he would not break on this, but they have broken and they have given up on York Outer.”

While Cllr Semlyen has declined to comment on the personal criticism, the Labour group has defended both the policy and their councillor.

A spokesman said: “Clearly the Conservatives are disappointed that Labour is delivering on its manifesto. “People stand down for all sorts of personal reasons, so attacking an individual for this is difficult to understand.”

The Labour group has not criticised opposition councillors who have stood down after similarly short terms in office, he added.

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