Newly-elected Canterbury City councillors have met for the first time, formally naming their cabinet and Lord Mayor.
The meeting came just a day after Labour (18 seats) and the Liberal Democrats (9) announced they would govern as a coalition, setting out plans to reverse several key policies of the previous Conservative administration.
In a short speech, new council leader Alan Baldock (Labour, Northgate) said:
Today we can reflect on a very significant political moment in this council's history.
It's also a very special moment for many first-time councillors from all political parties, the significance of your role and that new responsibility that you share in this administration with everyone together is, I'm sure, beginning to settle with you now.
But, from me, and all of us, welcome to Canterbury City Council. It's your council, and you're a councillor it in, and you'll be shaping the council that we are in charge of.
I'm immensely proud and privileged to be the leader of the shared Labour and Liberal Democrat administration. Labour and Liberal Democrats are united in achieving a change that sees this council working alongside our residents. Without doubt it's only together with them that we can and will achieve a desperately needed better future.
Cllr Baldock named the rest of his cabinet - "I'm the leader - that's the easy bit out of the way" - as follows:
- Michael Dixey (Lib Dem, Westgate) - Deputy Leader and Property, performance, oversight
- Mike Sole (Lib Dem, Nailbourne) - Finance
- Pip Hazleton (Labour, Westgate) - Housing (including homelessness)
- Mel Dawkins (Labour, St.Stephen's) - Climate change, biodiversity
- Charlotte Cornell (Labour, Seasalter) heritage, open spaces, waste and recycling
- Alex Ricketts (Lib Dem, Blean Forest) - tourism, movement, rural development
- Connie Nolan (Labour, Barton) - community, culture, safety, engagement
- Chris Cornell (Labour, Gorrell) - coastal towns
The split (6 Labour, 3 Lib Dem) exactly reflects the proportion of seats won in the election.
The night at the Guildhall - a largely politics-free, light-hearted occasion of speeches and gifts, and at one point a fanfare - precedes a challenging term for the new council.
At the start of the evening, Jean Butcher was named Lord Mayor of Canterbury during the "Mayor Making Ceremony". Cllr Butcher (Labour) is a former NHS worker who was re-elected for the Northgate ward on May 4. She was nominated by Mr Baldock, her fellow Northgate councillor, and seconded by Cllr Dixey.
Besides the ceremonial robes and public engagements, her role is to chair every meeting of the full council.
A long list of committee appointments was also agreed.
New Little Stour and Adisham councillor Lee Castle is on the Governance Committee, the Scrunity Sub-Committee, will be vice-chair of the Licensing Committee, and is one of two Lib Dem stand-ins on the Planning Committee.
Adisham's Kent County Councillor Mike Sole (Canterbury South) who was also re-elected in Nailbourne earlier this month, will be on the Governance Committee and a substitute on both Cabinet and Appointments.
Committees relevant to CARE include the Planning Committee and Sub-Committee. They receive reports on planning applications from council planning officers, listen to people speak for and against them at meetings, then vote on whether developments can go ahead.
The Planning Committee has 13 members - there will be 6 Labour councillors, 3 Liberal Democrats, 3 Conservatives and 1 Green.
The Planning Sub-Committee is smaller, 6 members of whom 3 will be Labour councillors with one each from the other parties.
The Local Plan process is different - the plan is voted on by the full council, and the next version - for which there will be another, more restrictive, consultation period - will be submitted to an external inspector. After that there will be a local hearing, or "Examination in Public", which could last several weeks.
Labour and the Lib Dems say they'll form a working group to redraft the plan by mid-August. We don't yet know when the revised version will actually be ready or published; before the election, former Conservative leader Ben Fitter-Harding had suggested to CARE it would not be before November.