Published: 13:00, 30 July 2014
The election of Annabelle Blackmore as Maidstone council’s new leader has opened up the possibility of a new spirit of co-operation in the Town Hall.
Cllr Blackmore replaced Cllr Chris Garland, who resigned as leader shortly after last May’s election in which the Conservative group lost its overall majority.
Cllr Blackmore (Con) now resides over a minority administration that would be dependent on the support of Independents or other parties in any vote.
Giving her first address to the full council as leader, she said: “This is a new start and I hope we can go ahead in a spirit of collaboration.”
In an attempt to take some of the acrimony and party politics out of the council chamber, she said she would instigate “cabinet coffee mornings” in which councillors of any party could drop in for a coffee and informal chat with her and her cabinet colleagues, to raise concerns or to make suggestions in an informal setting.
Cllr Blackmore said: “Things should not just be about the opinions of the cabinet, not just about the opinions of the leader, let’s all get involved.
“But if we are going to criticise, let’s make it positive; let’s make it constructive.”
Her speech was welcomed by Cllr Fran Wilson, leader of the Lib Dem opposition, who said: “We do need to collaborate - and not just the two main parties.”
Cllr Fay Gooch, leader of the Independent group said: “I do detect that the political temperature in the chamber has gone down a bit.”
Cllr Eddie Powell, leader of the UKIP group, promised: “We will work with everybody to get the best for Maidstone.”
Only Labour leader Cllr Malcolm McKay sounded a worrying note. “We need a bold council,” he said: “We may need to take decisions that are not electorally to our benefit.”
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