The new leader of Warwick District Council has reached out to opposition parties in the hope they can work together on issues including poor air quality and the loss of the open countryside.
Cllr Andrew Day (Con, Bishop’s Tachbrook) was elected at Wednesday night’s annual meeting of the council, taking over from Andrew Mobbs who lost his seat at the local elections at the start of the month.
The Conservatives only managed to stay in power by forming an alliance with the three Whitnash Residents Association councillors to take their combined number of seats to 22 - the same as the number held by the opposition group made up of the Lib Dems. Greens and Labour but the Tory chairman will have the casting vote.
Australian-born Cllr Day said: “As an immigrant, perhaps I can benefit from some fresh eyes which have enabled me to see some things very clearly and that is, principally, what a gem of a district we live in.
“It is one of the most beautiful and remarkable places on this planet and yet we have to address the fact that over the term of this administration over the next four years our community will grow by some 30 per cent to some 160,000 people.
“Much of what we hold dear is in fact at risk.
"We should be ashamed of the fact that we have some of the poorest air qualities in our major towns and we need to do a lot more to address the loss of our open countryside.
"We simply have to encourage, in many ways, our residents to make fundamental changes to the way in which we all live.
“We must be impatient - four years will pass very quickly and at the end of that time I hope that every councillor on every side of this house feels they have made a contribution to their community and this district.
“I am bringing forward specific plans quickly to work through how this district can become carbon neutral - to work with partners such as the Woodland Trust to plant one new tree for every one of our soon to be 160,000 residents in the next four years.”
Cllr Day explained he had handed the new portfolio of environment and business to the experienced Cllr Alan Rhead (Con Budbrooke) so that ‘every project and initiative we are working on delivers step change improvements in the quality of our environment’.
He added: “We need to unlock some of the considerable talent that is in this council and we must find ways for every councillor to play a meaningful role in taking this plan forward if we are to succeed.
“I want to work with the other group leaders on an improved and more collaborative form of government and that is clearly something our residents want too.”
It will be a new look executive at the helm of Warwick District Council with three of the eight councillors being newly elected.
Seven of the portfolios have been handed to Conservatives with Whitnash Residents Association Cllr Judy Falp (Whitnash) securing the other - that of health and community protection.
Of the new additions, Cllr Richard Hales (Kenilworth Abbey and Arden) takes finance, Cllr Jan Matecki (Budbrooke) takes housing and property, and Cllr David Norris (Bishop’s Tachbrook) will take care of neighbourhood services.
Of the other roles in addition to leader Cllr Andrew Day (Bishop’s Tachbrook), environment and business goes to Cllr Alan Rhead (Con Budbrooke), culture goes to Cllr Moira-Ann Grainger (Woodloes) and development services goes to Cllr John Cooke (Kenilworth Abbey and Arden).
Labour councillors have expressed their displeasure at the new setup of the council.
Cllr Geraldine Cullinan said: "Our electorate voted for something different at Warwick District Council, with tonight's outcome it has just got more of the same."
Cllr. Jonathan Nicholls echoed this and stated: "The opportunity for more cross party decision making over the coming year has been rejected by the Conservatives who have formed an alliance with Whitnash Residents Group."
Cllr Jerry Weber added his concern: "Leamington Spa is not represented on the executive, this is not a fair representation, when so many projects affecting Leamington are in the pipeline such as the HQ, Newbold Comyn and the Creative Quarter."
With 22 seats apiece across the 44 for the new Conservative (19) and Whitnash Residents Association (3) collaboration and the Liberal Democrats (9), Green Party (8), and Labour (5) The Green Party had proposed an alternative vice chair for the authority but the Conservatives voted against this using their casting vote which is held by new chairman Cllr George Illingworth (Con. Kenilworth Abbey & Arden).
Green Group leader Cllr Ian Davison said: “We’re determined to fix our broken politics and so have argued for a more collaborative, transparent and stable way of making decisions in our district.
"We proposed a change from the current adversarial system and are delighted that all parties have agreed to investigate a switch to a new system.
However, the Conservatives refused to allow a vice-chair of the Council from another party, which would have been a way of showing commitment to a new collaborative way of working.
"We’ll continue to work for this positive, constructive change as well as focusing on tackling dangerous air pollution and traffic gridlock, and campaigning for better housing and practical steps to address the climate emergency.”