To receive a statement from the Leader of the Council in accordance with Council Procedure Rule 9.
In welcoming everyone to the meeting the Leader thanked colleagues for their support as the new municipal term began.
The Leader congratulated the Mayor on her re-appointment, and to Councillor Khan on his appointment as Deputy Mayor. The Leader also congratulated all the new Members of the Council from all parties and parts of the Borough who were taking their seats for the first time.
The Leader noted that for the second election in a row, the majority of Councillors elected were new into role and welcomed their enthusiasm and commitment stating than anyone who stood for election put their head above the parapet, and that in an age where politicians were often reviled and open to abuse, it was important to him that everyone started by respecting the commitment to public service and the personal sacrifices that people had made and would continue to make as everyone sought the best for the people that they represented.
The Leader advised that the presence of so many new Members should also serve as a reminder that it was essential not to simply accept the old way of doing things, and that everyone must always be on the right side of change. The Leader stated that all Elected Members must also continue to uphold high standards and be on the side of doing things the right way. The Leader continued that he hoped and believed that change would be one of the discussions that lay ahead for all present through the next few months.
The Leader advised that competitive elections were a good thing, and that whilst he may have liked the recent elections to be a little more favourable to his side and a little less favourable to the Members opposite, no one should lose sight of that fact that everyone was only present at the meeting because the public had chosen and that everyone must continue to earn their trust. The Leader advised that he welcomed a difference of opinion and stated that a healthy debate was a good thing noting that he looked forward to working constructively with those on all sides of the Chamber.
The Leader stated that the Labour Group had been elected on a clear mandate and had heard a lot what the pubic said at the last election. The Leader stated that the administration would set out in more detail than ever before their plan to Build a Better Borough and noted that it was their responsibility to implement that plan as they had promised.
The Leader continued that this would mean that the administration would continue to pursue jobs and expanding economic opportunities for residents, provide more Council homes and affordable housing, continue to invest in and reform Social Care provision to meet the needs and aspirations of service users as well as renewing their commitment to ensure no-one was left behind because at a time when people were being driven apart, by poverty, by rising hate crime, by an economy that fails too many people and a political climate that thrives on division, the Council’s role must be to secure a home that residents can be proud of and a platform upon which they can stand and fulfil their ambitions.
The Leader confirmed the Cabinet appointments that he had made: -
Councillor Sarah Allen, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Neighbourhood Working
Councillor Victoria Cusworth, Children and Young People
Councillor David Roche, Adult Social Care and Health
Councillor Denise Lelliott, Jobs and the Local Economy
Councillor Dominic Beck, Transport and Environment
Councillor Dave Sheppard, Social Inclusion
Councillor Amy Brookes, Housing
Councillor Saghir Alam, Corporate Services, Community Safety and Finance
The Leader stated that he would like to take the opportunity to personally thank Councillor Emma Hoddinott for her contribution and commitment in Cabinet and wished her well in her new job. The Leader made of a special mention to former Councillor Gordon Watson, who had done so much to transform the lives of the most vulnerable children and young people in the Borough. The Leader stated that when he and former Councillor Watson attended their first meeting as Leader and Deputy, that he had touched his arm just before the meeting started and had said; “Hey, just think, we’re here.”
The Leader concluded in stating that in that same spirit, to all Members taking their seats today – before the politics starts and the casework overloads inboxes and social media gets the better of you, remember: you’re here and that you’re doing a remarkable thing.
Councillor Barley thanked the Leader for his kind words of welcome and asked what he would look to do differently now that the composition of the Council was very different to how it had been before the election.
Councillor Sylvester asked whether the Leader would consider linking the size of Members’ neighbourhood budgets to the level of deprivation in Wards.
In response to Councillor Barley the Leader advised that there were strong processes in place that not only enable agreement and disagreement to take place, but for accountable decision making to take place. The Leader advised he was always open to reviewing processes and procedures as required.
In response to Councillor Sylvester the Leader that the vast majority of the Council’s spending activity was aimed at addressing the problems of inequality and deprivation by addressing market failures. The Leader advised that it would be wrong and misleading to pretend that the small neighbourhood budgets would address major issues such as inequality and deprivation but assured Councillor Sylvester that the Council’s wider policies and actions would address these issues.