Senior council secretary resigns

Position ‘no longer tenable’ says Tony Simpson.

The secretary of Honiton Senior Council has resigned, saying his position is “no longer tenable”.

Tony Simpson, who has held the post since April 2008, told the Midweek Herald: “I am taking this action to follow my own conscience and in the interests of our organisation.

“I no longer agree with, and cannot support, the direction the Senior Council for Devon seems to be headed.

“It is no longer the body I joined as an assembly member.”

Mr Simpson’s resignation, which will take effect from January 4 next year, has “saddened” the chairman of the Senior Council for Devon, Gillie Newcombe, who has paid tribute to his “valiant” work over the past three years.

He says changes to the council’s constitution has made it “more cautious”, pointing out its board recently declined to table four motions on cuts to services.

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Instead of acting as a voice for older people, Mr Simpson claims the organisation is narrowing its remit - concentrating on health and social care issues.

“I foresee a further shift in the role of senior council to that of a service-giving body – in thrall to funders of government ideas of the Big Society - with consequent impact on branches,” he said.

“It would have been preferable to ally ourselves with other progressive views and organisations representing older people in Devon.

“This would have enabled us to claim a stronger voice on key issues affecting older people, to engage in campaigning, to defend older people’s quality of life and to oppose serious cuts in services.”

Mr Simpson said he decided to resign after noting the council’s recent annual meeting seemed “preoccupied” with internal matters, such as branding and increasing membership.

He said: “If the senior council is not only to survive but to grow and have a stronger voice, it will require a change of direction.”

Gillie Newcombe told The Herald: “The Senior Council for Devon (SCfD) is extremely grateful to Tony Simpson for the valiant work that he has put into the organisation – and, in particular, into the Honiton branch as their secretary over the past three and a half years.

“We exist to represent the interests and views of older people in Devon and not to engage in political issues. Whilst our members have their individual political views on the cuts in services, the focus of our organisation is more on the effect that those cuts are having on the quality of life of our members and other older people.

“SCfD is still funded by Devon County Council - but we have been asked by them to focus on engagement in health and social care issues. In this, we are co-operating with the Fusion Consortium, whose other members have specialisms in areas such as learning disabilities, mental health and carers.

“Indeed, the Senior Council represents the Consortium on older persons’ issues. However, we are able also to continue to pursue the multiplicity of concerns of our members (transport, rural services, intergeneration issues, housing and leisure among many varied interests) using our other resources.

“We are saddened by Tony’s departure, but believe that the changes to our funding will not have such dire consequences as he suggests.

“We will continue to work for the interests of older people in Devon and we wish Tony well with his continuing efforts in the same cause - even though he has decided to express them in a different way.”