All change at council as new leader takes over

NADV 1406037AM8 Richard Cooper. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1406037AM8)
NADV 1406037AM8 Richard Cooper. Picture : Adrian Murray. (1406037AM8)
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Harrogate’s Conservative councillors played a game of musical chairs at the weekend - with Coun Richard Cooper bagging the leader seat from Coun Anthony Alton.

Former leader Coun Alton (Claro) along with his deputy Coun Alan Skidmore (Ripon Spa) have been banished to the back benches with Coun Michael Harrison (Killinghall) taking up the deputy post.

“I have not made huge changes,” said Coun Cooper (High Harrogate) who has been on Harrogate Borough Council since 1999, with a one year gap in 2010.

“But I will keep an eye on things and possibly review it after the Tour de France.”

The Tour de France is the first major event Coun Cooper will oversee as council leader.

He said: “I want to make sure everything goes right, especially for residents.”

Newly elected Coun Rebecca Burnett (Rossett) will take the role of cycling champion from Coun John Ennis (Low Harrogate) who will now chair the licensing committee.

Coun Cooper said: “There is no arguments there, Rebecca is perfect for the role.

“She loves cycling, she rides her bike to work, she know the cycle routes like the back of her hand and has already met with most of the cycling groups in town.”

Other changes to the Cabinet include moving the finance portfolio into the leaders responsibilities, changing public protection and rural affairs to public protection -still with Coun Margaret Atkinson(Kirkby Malzeard) as Cabinet member and moving the transport responsibilities to the environment portfolio which Coun Phil Ireland (King James) will keep.

Coun Cooper said: “It makes sense, we should be looking at protecting our environment and sustainable transport to tackle congestion.”

He added: “In my first year I want to make people see that the council is listening to them and that we are on their side.

“Nationally the idea that councils are staffed with people on high salaries has been etched on the public psyche. We’ve cut staff, we are making savings.”

The new leader, who also becomes chairman of the Harrogate International Centre, added: “I want to work with all the councillors, regardless of party. If people are playing politics I am not interested.

Coun Alton said: “I am very proud to have done the job for two years, especially leading the council through the Tour de France build up.”

The changes are due to be ratified at the annual meeting of the council next Thursday when Coun Jim Clark will also be installed as the new mayor of the borough.