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Ashford Borough Council leader Gerry Clarkson re-elected unopposed at Conservative meeting

Gerry Clarkson will continue to reign as leader of Ashford Borough Council for another four years after being re-elected unopposed this week.

The Charing councillor, who has been leader since 2013, survived a vote of no confidence held by his own party earlier this year.

But he was re-elected without a challenge at a Conservative meeting on Monday night - and now plans to make ABC the best authority in the country.

Gerry Clarkson is to remain in charge at Ashford Borough Council
Gerry Clarkson is to remain in charge at Ashford Borough Council

"We have made a lot of progress in six years, but we have more to do in the next four years," Cllr Clarkson said.

"We are not cocky or arrogant - we know there is lots still to do but we are doing lots of good things.

"The progress made in Ashford can now continue and we have got to look forward. I want to make Ashford the best council in the UK."

Cllr Clarkson says the loss of M&S - which is now empty - is not a disaster. Picture: Steve Salter
Cllr Clarkson says the loss of M&S - which is now empty - is not a disaster. Picture: Steve Salter

Cllr Clarkson refused to comment on the vote of no confidence, which was held in February at a behind-closed-doors Tory meeting.

But he says he is now keen to continue redeveloping Ashford - and has appointed former ABC leader Paul Bartlett in place of Biddenden councillor Neil Bell as his deputy.

"Neil served loyally and supported me and we worked very well together," Cllr Clarkson said.

"He is remaining in the cabinet but now and again there is time for change.

"It's time to give someone else an opportunity otherwise you get set in your ways and this is an opportunity for Paul.

"I am very delighted to appoint him."

Cllr Paul Bartlett has been made deputy leader
Cllr Paul Bartlett has been made deputy leader

Cllr Clarkson saw off Labour's Janet White in his Charing ward during the local elections, easing to victory by almost 300 votes.

He says he will now arrange who will sit in the ABC cabinet, which took a hit in the elections when high-profile figures Graham Galpin, Brad Bradford and Mike Bennett all lost their seats.

"Unfortunately, a lot of good people lost their seats mainly because of the Brexit situation," Cllr Clarkson said.

"The electorate wanted to do a protest vote and a number of hard-working and dedicated colleagues lost their seats."

'Unfortunately, a lot of good people lost their seats mainly because of the Brexit situation...' - Cllr Gerry Clarkson

Cllr Clarkson says he thinks the loss of M&S and the impending closure of Debenhams is not a disaster for the town centre.

"It is a problem we will solve and you will be surprised how well we will solve it," he said.

"We are entrepreneurial and we know as can't have as many retail shops in the town but can have a diverse mix of things to make it an attractive experience.

"It gives us an opportunity to put something different in there."

Bosses are confident the units at Elwick Place will be filled
Bosses are confident the units at Elwick Place will be filled

Cllr Clarkson thinks restaurants could fill the units - and says he is confident the empty spaces at the Elwick Place hotel and cinema complex will be filled.

"The cinema seems to be doing quite well now," he said.

"It was lightly used to start with but it is progressing now.

"The Travelodge is full up and the brewery has just opened as well."


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