History is made as newly-formed West Suffolk Council meets for the first time
- Credit: MARIAM GHAEMI
The leader of the new West Suffolk Council says he is “honoured, humbled and excited” to take the helm following the historic first meeting of the single authority.
Conservative John Griffiths, who represents Ixworth ward, was appointed on Wednesday to lead the newly-formed authority following the merger between Forest Heath District Council and St Edmundsbury Borough Council.
Mr Griffiths was formerly leader of St Edmundsbury and the previous leader of Forest Heath, James Waters, lost his seat in the local elections held earlier this month.
West Suffolk is now the seventh largest non-metropolitan district in the country and serves a population of 179,248.
MORE: April 1 marks "momentous day" with formation of two new Suffolk councilsThe meeting opened with a minute's silence for former St Edmundsbury Borough Council leader Ray Nowak, following the news of his death yesterday.
Brian Harvey, vice-chair of the shadow council, was then appointed chairman for the 2019-20 year, with Margaret Marks appointed as vice-chair.
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Mr Griffiths was then appointed to lead the new authority before he announced his cabinet.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Griffiths said there would be "enormous challenges ahead" but there was a "great platform" to make west Suffolk one of the best areas in the country.
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"I'm honoured, humbled and excited about the opportunities, which I hope we can take forward," he said.
"There's a great legacy, great platform, there's lots of projects underway - the Western Way development, the Mildenhall Hub, the Haverhill masterplan, the operational hub which are ongoing.
"Hopefully we can all work together, irrespective of politics, to take them forward in the interests of the people that we serve.
"So I suppose there will be enormous challenges ahead but I think there is every possibility that West Suffolk Council can become one of the best in the country.
"I also hope we can work even closer with partners like the police, the health, the county council, our businesses. Now that we're bigger, hopefully we'll have more clout to get the inward investment from other agencies while being small enough to help our local communities."
MORE: West Suffolk Council election mirrors national picture with Conservatives losing seatsMr Griffiths added that a task force would be set up to help improve rural areas as well as look at ways that west Suffolk can become more environmentally friendly.
"We do an awful lot of work for our villages and communities," he said. "I'm not sure that they always feel supported or realise what's available to them, so the task force is firstly to see if that group can come up with any suggestions on how to do that any better.
"Secondly, the environmental aspect, I'm sure there's more we can do to make west Suffolk more environmentally friendly and carbon neutral than it is already."
Councillors were appointed as follows:
Leader: John Griffiths
Deputy leader: Sara Mildmay-White
Chairman: Brian Harvey
Vice-chair Margaret Marks
Overview and scrunity committee chairman: David Nettleton
Overview and scrunity committee vice-chairman: Simon Cole
Performance and audit scrunity committee chairman: Ian Houlder
Performance and audie scrunity commitee vice-chairman: Karen Richardson
Housing: Sara Mildmay-White
Leisure, culture and hubs: Jo Rayner
Families and communities: Robert Everitt
Operations: Peter Stevens
Planning and regulatory: Andy Drummond
Growth: Susan Glossop
Resources: Sarah Broughton
Governance: Carol Bull