Max Wilkinson will step down from Cheltenham Borough Council at the local elections this May to focus efforts on the general election campaign.
The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the ultra-marginal constituency announced the decision on New Year’s Day after 10 years on the authority, with speculation building that a general election will take place on the same day as the local elections in May.
During his decade of service, Max has successfully campaigned for new investment in affordable housing, protection of the local environment, local healthcare and the cost of living.
His council motion set the ball rolling for the authority’s £180m housing investment strategy. Max was the councillor who proposed the declaration of a climate emergency, subsequently leading on the town’s net zero plan and tough new climate change planning rules.
More recently, Max’s campaigns on the cost of living resulted in extra funding for local food banks and the Feed Cheltenham Leisure Card, a partnership with the NHS and Cheltenham Trust enabling food bank users to access free leisure activities.
“Serving Cheltenham for the past decade has been an absolute privilege and I’m hugely thankful to everyone I’ve met and worked with during that time – particularly local people, all the many community groups I’ve worked with, and local council staff,” said Max.
“A lot has changed in the last ten years, but Cheltenham has weathered the storm and continues to punch above its weight on everything from the local economy to our response to the climate crisis.
“I have loved every minute of serving Cheltenham and I will carry on campaigning for a better deal for our area, but that won’t be as a candidate for the local elections this May. I want to continue working for this town as Cheltenham’s next MP and that will be my main focus, because we deserve so much better than more Conservative failures on the health service, economy and our precious environment.
“Many people expect the general election to take place on the same day as the local elections and I don’t think it’s right for me to be on two ballot papers on the same day.”
Max finished second in Cheltenham at the last general election, securing 27,505 votes, just 981 behind Conservative MP Alex Chalk.
Max became Cheltenham’s first ever climate emergency cabinet member in 2020, a role he held until May 2022. Since then, he’s served as the cabinet member for economic development, culture, tourism and wellbeing.
His announcement comes soon after the Labour Party conceded Cheltenham is not a ‘battleground’ seat at the general election. The Labour Party won just 4.9 per cent of the vote in Cheltenham in 2019.
Max was first elected to the Borough Council in 2014 in Park ward. He defeated the long-serving Conservative group leader in what was then the Conservative Party’s safest ward. In 2018 he was re-elected to the Borough Council in Oakley, where he was successful again in 2022, securing 63 per cent of the vote.
Cheltenham is fifth on the Lib Dem target seats list, making it a key Blue Wall marginal that will help decide the outcome of the next election.