The new leader of Flintshire Council has called for unity after he was appointed by a large majority of politicians from across party boundaries.
The nomination of Cllr Ian Roberts, cabinet member for education, was ratified by a significant number of community leaders at a special meeting held on Tuesday with no votes against.
The gathering was called in the wake of Aaron Shotton announcing his departure last week amid a row over the sacking of his deputy Bernie Attridge.
Both men were sitting apart among fellow Labour backbenchers for the proceedings at County Hall in Mold having previously been seated together at the top table.
During his acceptance speech Cllr Roberts, who represents the Flint Castle ward, expressed his ‘honour’ to be appointed and spoke of the need for divisions to be set aside.
He also called on colleagues to focus on frontline services moving forward.
He said: “I am very humble and very grateful for the support I have received.
“Of course, it’s slightly tinged with sadness in the manner it’s come about.
“As members we need to refocus ourselves on the services that we actually provide and we should be proud of them.
“As well as a focus on services, I think given the decisions we made on the budget earlier this year, we need to very aware that we are getting the best possible value we can for taxpayers’ money.”
He added: “I would also say as members we’ve got work to do on improving our relations as well.
“We need to begin to restore trust, both with each other, with officers and the public outside the chamber. We live in tumultuous political times now.”
Cllr Roberts has represented Flint since the late 1980s, originally as a town councillor, before being elected to Delyn Borough Council in 1991.
He then became part of the newly-formed Flintshire County Council in 1995 and has successfully held his seat since.
He was appointed as portfolio holder for education in 2017 following his retirement from teaching at Borras Park School in Wrexham, where he also served as deputy head and acting headteacher.
Cllr Roberts’ name was put forward for leader with both his wife and son in attendance.
Cllr Chris Bithell, cabinet member for planning and public protection, spoke highly of his colleague and backed him to restore trust in the council.
He said: “I’ve great pleasure in proposing Cllr Ian Roberts as the new leader of Flintshire County Council.
“Ian, as we all know, is a well-established and long-serving councillor who I’ve known personally for over 35 years.
“For the past two years, he’s held the cabinet position for education and youth and quickly gained the trust and respect of all those he’s worked with.
“The level of trust, credibility, confidence and respect that he enjoys from colleagues across the chamber makes him an ideal candidate to take on the role of leader of Flintshire County Council.”
His nomination was seconded by Independent Alliance councillor Colin Legg, who called him ‘a person of great integrity’.
He said despite being from a different political group, he had no hesitation in backing the appointment.
A recorded vote was held to poll members on the instatement of Cllr Roberts to the top political post.
A total of 56 councillors raised their hand in support of the move with just four abstentions from opposition party members.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).