New Lancashire County Council leader voted in and cabinet appointed
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She was voted in at the first face-to-face meeting of the authority at County Hall in 15 months.
As the Local Democracy Reporting Service revealed earlier this month, County Cllr Williamson won the race to become leader of the ruling Tory group after the party retained control at the local elections. In a secret ballot of the 48 Conservative county councillors, she defeated the man who has been deputy leader of the authority for the past two years, Chorley Rural West representative Keith Iddon.
The top job fell vacant after Geoff Driver, who had been at the head of the Tories in the county for 12 years, stepped down from that role – and as leader of the county council – just ahead of the poll.
Thursday’s vote of the full council saw County Cllr Williamson officially instated to run the authority for the next four years.
In a statement after the meeting, she said that the past year had been “exceptionally tough for everyone” because of the pandemic.
“Lancashire is a fantastic place to live, work and do business. We are really well-placed as the economy bounces back and with my cabinet, I am determined to help us recover and prosper.
“Attracting inward investment, helping create jobs and opportunities whilst delivering better services and protecting our environment, are our priorities.
”I will be working closely with colleagues across the county council, with district councils, MPs and others, to deliver on these commitments.
“Over the past four years, we have put the council on a stable financial footing. We have balanced the books, delivered services residents value and prioritised support for the most vulnerable – I will be working hard to continue to do this,” added County Cllr Williamson, who was elected to the authority in 2017 for the Lancaster Rural North division and has been the cabinet member for children, young people and schools for the past two years.
Cleveleys South and Carleton county councillor Alan Vincent – who also sits on Wyre Council – has become deputy leader of the authority.
Meanwhile, the county council also elected a new chairperson for the municipal year ahead – South Ribble East representative Barrie Yates, who has been a member of the authority since 2013 and is also a councillor of 30 years’ standing on South Ribble Borough Council.
Nominating him for the role – which is similar to that of mayor at district council level – fellow South Ribble borough and county councillor Michael Green described his colleague as a “proud Lancastrian”.
He said of the Preston-born retired engineer: “Throughout his life, Cllr Yates has been proud to stand up for the underdog, which led him ultimately into local politics. Making people feel welcome is one of Barry’s strengths.”
Oswaldtwistle Conservative county councillor Peter Britcliffe was voted in as deputy chair – although Labour forced a vote on the issue “on a point of principle” over the fact that both positions had gone to Tory members, when, during Labour last period in office between 2013 and 2017, the roles were shared amongst the political parties.
Labour group leader Azhar Ali’s nomination of Chorley North member Hasina Khan for the post was defeated.
Outgoing chair Susie Charles returned to County Hall to oversee the official handover proceedings, even though she is no longer a sitting county councillor having not sought re-election this year.
Reflecting on her time in the role throughout the pandemic, she said that it had been a “slightly odd year” in which the usual calendar of events that would have seen her out and about across Lancashire had been all but obliterated.
“I haven’t really done all that much,” she smiled.
However, she did take the helm of the first remote council meetings in County Hall’s history, chairing the debates from the authority’s headquarters while the 83 other members dialled in from their respective divisions.
The new Lancashire County Council leader has also unveiled a newly-refreshed cabinet. County Cllr Williamson has made five new appointments to the top jobs and, of the other four, only two retain their previous roles.
A new post has been created, separating environmental issues from those of the economy and planning and coupling them with a new brief concerned with climate change.
A dedicated role with responsibility for children and families – separate from education – has also been established.
The full list of roles is:
County Cllr Phillippa Williamson (Lancaster Rural North) – leader
County Cllr Alan Vincent (Cleveleys South & Carleton) – deputy leader with responsibility for resources, HR and property (new cabinet member)
County Cllr Peter Buckley (St Annes North) – community and cultural services (incumbent)
County Cllr Charlie Edwards (Morecambe South) – highways and transport (new cabinet member)
County Cllr Graham Gooch (South Ribble West) – adult services (incumbent)
County Cllr Michael Green (Moss Side and Farington) – health and wellbeing
• County Councillor Jayne Rear, cabinet member for education and skills (new cabinet member)
• County Cllr Aidy Riggott (Euxton, Buckshaw & Astley) – economic development and growth (new cabinet member)
• County Cllr Cosima Towneley (Burnley Rural) – children and families (new cabinet member)
• County Cllr Shaun Turner (Wyre Rural East) – environment and climate change