Deputy council leader ousted

Former borough council deputy leader Coun Alan Skidmore.
Former borough council deputy leader Coun Alan Skidmore.

The Deputy Leader of Harrogate Borough Council – Ripon Coun Alan Skidmore – has been ousted from the role by Conservative colleagues in a post-election cabinet shake-up.

He along with the Leader, Coun Anthony Alton (Con, Claro), have been banished to the back benches of the Tory-controlled local authority after Coun Richard Cooper (Con, High Harrogate) was selected as Leader. Coun Michael Harrison (Con, Killinghall) will be his deputy.

But in announcing his first cabinet, the new leader has retained Ripon Coun Mike Chambers (Con, Ripon Spa) as the member responsible for housing.

“I have not made huge changes,” said Coun Cooper, who has been on Harrogate Borough Council since 1999 apart from a 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.”

It is the second time in two years that the Conservative Group on Harrogate Borough Council has changed the Leader.

Coun Don Mackenzie, who was elected in May 2011 in a term set to last four years, was ousted from the leadership in 2012 when Coun Alton took the reins with Coun Skidmore as his Deputy and who themselves have been ousted this week.

Other changes to the Cabinet enacted by Coun Cooper include moving the finance portfolio to the leader’s responsibilities, changing the “public protection and rural affairs” portfolio 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 and the council is there to listen to the people.”

He added: “I want to work with all the councillors, regardless of party, as long as they are working for the residents. If people are playing politics I am not interested.

“I aim to live a good number of years in Harrogate and want to do what is right for Harrogate.”

The Gazette tried to contact Coun Skidmore for comment but he was unavailable at the time of going to press.

The changes are due to be ratified at the annual meeting of Harrogate Borough Council on Thursday next week when Coun Jim Clark (Con) will be installed as the new Mayor of the district, replacing Coun Mike Newby (Lib Dem).